October 7, 2013

The Kill and the Kink: a review of Sandy DeLuca's "Hell's Door"

Hell's Door
by Sandy DeLuca
DarkFuse (2013)

I wouldn't figure Providence, Rhode Island to be a town to play host to one of the kinkiest and downright dirtiest nightclubs I've ever seen put on the page, but Hell's Door is just such a club and with it Rhode Island just got a helluva lot more interesting in the eyes of this Canadian. In any case, there's a killer on the loose in Providence, and it's up to a pair of detectives to go undercover and hunt down the maniac who's been leaving mutilated bodies in his-or-her wake--not to mention keeping the heads as souvenirs.

Lacey Powers and John Demmings are the two detectives taking the lead on rooting out the killer, and they have their sights set on the owner of Hell's Door, a manipulative and alluring pimp named Ramsay Wolfe. She might be sexy in a kind of Fifty Shades version of Moulin Rouge kind of way, but Lacey and John are seemingly convinced she is a cold-blooded killer. The descent Lacey and John take, as they embody their lascivious personas inside Ramsay's nightclub, is riveting. Between interludes that offer glimpses into the mind of the killer who calls himself Gabriel, a simmering tension--both sexual and professional--builds between the two detectives. John and his wife are separate and his feelings for Lacey intensify almost exponentially as they pose as a couple, and Lacey's obsession over the murders and seeing Ramsay taken down have John and others in the precinct concerned for her well-being.

Despite the backdrop and the gruesome nature of the murders, Hell's Door didn't feel the least bit lurid or exploitative. And it certainly could have gone that way for some cheap thrills. Instead, there's this rising tide kind of vibe as their investigation continues. And the closer they get to obtaining the evidence they need against Ramsay and making the connection between her and Gabriel, the more it feels like they themselves are pulled under, and there's just no way of knowing how it will all play out. And lemme tell ya, if you read this novella to the end and claim of have seen the ending coming a mile away, I will call you a liar.

If the police procedurals I've sampled over the years offered such lyrical style and avoided slavish adherence to investigative minutia, I'd be a fan of the genre, because I loved Hell's Door.

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