By Bill Pronzini
Leisure Books, 269 pp,1999
This is a sleek, fast-paced and unique
little tale set in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Pronzini has used a
very effective and time-tested technique. Take a likeable character and
place him in a perilous situation. Throw in an exotic setting and you've
got a great premise.
Steven Giroux has come to Mardi Gras to
blow off some steam and forget his troubles. Recently divorced from an
unfaithful wife, Giroux is a borderline alcoholic struggling to get his
life back together. He meets a voodoo babe who wants to have sex with
him. Something freaky happens and he wakes up the next morning with the
voodoo babe gone and he's covered in blood. So he runs back to his
On the way, he meets a seemingly normal
babe who also wants to have sex with him, though she makes him take her
out to dinner first.
He also gets a strange phone call from
someone demanding a photograph or he'll be sorry. This is the novel's
main plot line and it's a nice little mystery, since Giroux has no idea
what the caller is talking about.
Over the next few days during Mardi Gras,
Giroux tries to figure everything out while being terrorized by the
caller and his buddies.
It's a simple plot with a minimum of
characters, and it works. In fact, the POV never shifts away from
Giroux, so the reader is just as clueless as the character.
The main quibble I would make is that
Pronzini gives us a lot of detail about New Orleans and Mardi Gras, with
endless descriptions of the sights, sounds, and human wildlife. For the
most part, it's interesting and adds some nice texture. But at times, it
slows down the pacing and gets in the way. I felt like skipping over
some paragraphs to get on with the story.
But overall, this is an enjoyable book
from a very good horror writer.