cover image The Throat

The Throat

Peter Straub. Dutton Books, $24 (688pp) ISBN 978-0-525-93503-2

Straub peaks with this visceral thriller, which completes his Blue Rose trilogy ( Koko ; Mystery ). The citizens of Millhaven, Ill., thought they had overcome the unsolved serial murders that plagued the town in the 1940s--the killer had scrawled the words ``Blue Rose'' near the bodies--but another resident has just fallen prey to a new Blue Rose. The victim's husband, John Ransom, enlists the aid of Tim Underhill, a high school buddy and fellow Vietnam vet who has written a book about the murders. Although Tim thinks of his hometown as ``oddly interchangeable'' with Vietnam, he returns to join forces with famed local sleuth Tom Pasmore to solve both the earlier and the later murders. Tim's research and Tom's computer hacking connect the '40s killer to the St. Alwyns Hotel on Widow Street and suggest that the more recent killer is a victim of child abuse. Millhaven detectives nab a Jeffrey Dahmer-type murderer who claims to be the new Blue Rose, but Tim proves that the man is lying. As Tim and Tom close in on the truth, the trauma of Tim's Vietnam experiences pales and ``the other Vietnam''--his own childhood abuse--roars into memory. Painted from a darkly colorful palette, Straub's characters inhabit a razor-edged world of unremitting suspense. BOMC main selection. (Apr.)