From Publishers Weekly
A high concept?an investigation of a murder suspect who exhibits disassociative identity disorder, or multiple personalities, in the form of classical Greek deities?gets only mediocre treatment in this ambitious but implausible police procedural set in San Diego. Homicide detective Orson Cheever meets the volatile Helen Troy?aka Holly, Caitlin, Cronos, Eris, Eurydice, Hygeia, the Maenads, the Moirae, Nemesis and Pandora?at a downtown gallery whose owner has been found stabbed to death. Helen, a likely suspect or possible eyewitness, becomes an object of fascination to Cheever when she exhibits stigmata, crying tears of blood, then a source of need and fulfillment when she adopts the personality of his long-dead daughter. Cheever falls in love not with Helen, however, but with her psychiatrist, Rachel Stern, as cop and shrink begin to piece together the crimes?further killings have followed?and Helen herself. This is Russell's most mature novel, tackling the issue of suffering in its many guises?including the breast cancer that strikes Rachel?but it isn't his best. Characters can be gimmicky and the dialogue trite. The murder scenario, moreover, seems almost tacked on to the novel's central mystery of Helen's psychosis. And that illness is so outlandish as to strain belief, especially in scenes like the one where Helen and Cheever go to a restaurant and Helen, shuffling frantically between personalities, orders for several of them. "The waitress repeated the orders in an uncertain voice. 'The lady would like an albacore melt, a very rare New York steak, a peanut butter and jelly, a lamb salad and the chicken fajitas. And the gentleman wants coffee. Regular or decaf?'" Russell's last two books were comic crime yarns (The Fat Innkeeper, 1995, etc.); it's in humor that his heart and his talent seem to thrive, and he should consider returning to it forthwith.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Russell offers up a highly original, literate mystery that is part psychological thriller, part exploration of the human soul, and part police procedural. When the mutilated body of art dealer Bonnie Gill is discovered, San Diego Detective Orson Cheever is assigned to track down the killer. His search leads to Helen Troy, an artist whose brilliant but deranged sculptures are perfect reflections of her distorted mind. Helen is a "multiple" whose many personality manifestations make her as mysterious as she is bewitching. Cheever eventually finds that he not only must help Helen confront her demons but also must face long-buried grief from his own past before the case can be solved. Russell has written an absorbing story that successfully combines the mundane with the otherworldly and delivers intriguing characters as well as fascinating glimpses into the human mind. A top-notch choice for most mystery collections. Emily Melton