Shocking Pink by Erica Spindler
(Mira, $5.99, G) ISBN 1-55166-415-1
****
Shocking Pink is a beautifully constructed, creative suspense story with snappy dialogue among well-developed characters. I didn't give it a five heart rating because it moves too slowly at the beginning and it is often repetitive. As the novel unwound, I began to realize that the repetition was long-time romance author Erica Spindler's way of showing obsession, but I wondered if the same point could have be made more subtly.

How many stories have you read where some horrible event has been witnessed in childhood and the viewer has been forever changed? It happens here, and Spindler's novel explores the impact on the viewers, demonstrating how horror can become a catalyst that profoundly affects the life of the viewer.

It is summertime for 15 year olds Julie, Raven and Andie who live in Thistledown, Missouri. They discover that in an unoccupied home in a nearby neighborhood sexually deviant activities are going on between a Mr. and Mrs. X. -- so named because they are masked with black scarves, employ cuffs, ropes, etc. The teenagers investigate and that means watching every time they can. Their secret observations gradually begin to erode their friendship as each reacts differently to what they are seeing. Eventually Mrs. X is found dead, hanging from a rope in a position the kids had seen before, blindfolded by a black scarf. Her murder remains unsolved.

Julie is the daughter of a religious zealot who has psychologically abused her. From the X's she learns desire. Raven, the daughter of a physically abusive man, learns power from Mr. X. Andie, the daughter of parents who have just split up because her father found someone new, learns compassion.

Fifteen years later, the three best friends are together again in Thistledown. Julie has just returned, her third marriage broken. Raven has a very successful interior design firm. And Andie is a psychiatrist.

One of Andie's abused clients snaps and kills her husband, the mayor. Andie becomes involved in the high profile case and again meets Detective Nick Raphael who had investigated Mrs. X's murder. As a result of the publicity, she starts seeing a new patient, David Sadler.

David, talk, dark, handsome and rich has just returned to Thistledown having spent the last decade in St. Louis. He is seeking treatment for sexually deviant behavior. At the same time Julie starts dating David, Raven is employed to decorate the new homes his firm is building and Andie and Nick are attracted to each other.

Suddenly, all three receive newspaper clippings of the 15 year old murder. Then a black silk scarf appears on Andie's bed, and other acts occur that show someone is watching and taunting them.

To reveal any more of the plot than I have would do a great disservice to author Erica Spindler. Her ingenious twists and turns in a story that features friendship, obsession, sexually deviant behavior and murder will be long remembered by this reviewer.

--Thea Davis


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