cover image A Desperate Silence

A Desperate Silence

Sarah Lovett. Villard Books, $24 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-679-43561-7

Lovett's third Sylvia Strange thriller (Dangerous Attachments; Acquired Motives) plays cleverly on the vampire theme, using vampirism as a metaphor for the parasitic search for self-gratification. A 10-year-old girl named Serena is the only person found in a late-night car wreck. When she refuses to offer identifying information and, indeed, refuses to say anything at all, Santa Fe forensic psychiatrist Sylvia Strange is assigned to the case. Soon, Sylvia crosses the path of Renzo Santos, a blood-drinking hit man for a Mexican drug lord who wants the child dead. Serena believes Renzo to be a demon, a type of vampire known as a chupacabra who seeks out children because its own have been taken. In his pursuit of Serena, Renzo not only proves dangerous but also seems impossible to kill. Serena's father, it turns out, is a death-row inmate whose execution is imminent and whose wealthy socialite sister, Noelle Harding, has ties to the drug underworld. Inevitably, Serena becomes a pawn in a power struggle between state and international agencies, and between Noelle, who desires the child's love, and Sylvia, who has earned it. Tense and absorbing, the novel is further enriched by the fact that Sylvia learns the answers to some long-standing questions about her own parentage as well as the little girl's. Author tour. (Feb.)