October 29, 1984 12:00 PM

by David L. Lindsey

Brutally straightforward, this is a traditional crime novel. Wealthy Stuart Haydon lives with his beautiful wife, a servant and an ancient collie in an exclusive area of Houston. Haydon is a city homicide detective on leave of absence because he broke down after solving a horrible murder (in author Lindsey’s very good previous novel, A Cold Mind). When a movie technician is found with his throat slit at the offices of a prestigious public relations firm, Haydon is asked to take on just this one case. Soon he is on the track of an apparent psychotic with an insatiable appetite for films of violent murder. One of the most powerful men in the city is involved: a recluse, not unlike Howard Hughes, who controls a vast empire, including a host of ex-CIA agents. Lindsey’s best character is still the city of Houston itself. He constructs vivid portraits of its fanciest hotels and restaurants and its ugliest, sweat-soaked slums. The once booming city has fallen on hard times, and Lindsey notes that “oil was a capricious mistress, and sometimes she made promises she would not keep.” In the final confrontation between villain and hero, the bad guy tries to justify himself with the observation that violence “permeates our lives, and yet we hypocritically pretend to find it abhorrent, though our entertainment and literature and art and politics and society reek with it.” This book is filled with that kind of irony, along with its own violence, but it’s all very well done. (Harper & Row, $14.95)

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