cover image Koko


Peter Straub. Dutton Books, $19.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-525-24660-2

In his most gripping, most hallucinogenic thriller to date, the author of Ghost Story and Shadowland takes us on a dizzying spin through those eerie psychic badlands where nightmare and insanity seem to fuse with reality. It's 15 years after the Vietnam War and a string of murders in Southeast Asia convinces four veterans of the same Vietnam platoonone now a doctor, another a writerthat the murderer, whose trademarks are mutilation and a playing card with ``Koko'' scrawled on it, was also a member of the platoon. They resolve to find him, for purposes of their own, before the police do. Led by the platoon's one-time lieutenant, who has a cold-blooded killing of villagers on his record, they follow Koko's trail to the sleazy bars and sinister dives of Singapore and Bangkok, and finally to New York where one of them becomes his latest victim. A probe into the killer's grim childhood yields his true identity, as well as his genesis as a psychopath, but in a thrilling climax, the now-you-see-me, now-you-don't Koko proves just how wily he is. The characters are realistic and complex, and the story continues to resonate in the mind long after the final page is turned. 250,000 first printing; major ad/promo; BOMC featured alternate. (September)