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A WOMAN RUN MAD
By JOHN L’HEUREUX (Avon; 1988)

Yet another book whose title and packaging (at least in its mass market incarnation) are directly at odds with its content. The sensational cover art portends a lurid FATAL ATTRACTION-esque shocker, and the critical blurbs--“A stupefying frenzy of bloodletting and revenge!” “Grand guignol for grown-ups!”--would seem to back up that promise. Yet the fact is that while A WOMAN RUN MAD is certainly quite raw in parts, the novel overall is a highly intellectualized sex thriller--although I’m probably wrong in categorizing it as such, as the thrills are few.

     Mostly it consists of four extremely introspective individuals brooding about their respective predicaments. There’s Quinn, a selfish writer who impulsively embarks on a torrid affair with a young hottie he spots shoplifting; Sarah, the unstable object of Quinn’s affections, who has a highly checkered past; Angelo, Sarah’s sex-addicted gay caretaker; and Quinn’s insecure wife Claire, who becomes even more so after learning of her hubbie’s amorous activities. These characters’ paths intersect in the gross-out climax, in which madness, murder and mutilation come into play, and nearly justify the blurbs quoted above.

     Author John L’Heureux is a darling of the literary elite, and known for more refined fare. Perhaps this is why he all-but apologizes for A WOMAN RUN MAD’S graphic content in a brief forward that asserts “This book is not, in essence, about sex or murder but about the restlessness that drives us to fabricate our lives and--willy nilly--to accomplish our fates.”

     This isn’t to say the book isn’t compelling. On the contrary, the first half is a page-burner par excellence, with a pulpy arc worthy of Jim Thompson. After that, unfortunately, the pace slows considerably as the author makes his true intentions evident, throwing in lengthy ruminations about fate and destiny (not to mention Kierkegaard, Camus and Descartes). The final pages, at least, are divertingly gruesome, closing things out on a down-and-dirty note that clashes mightily with the otherwise high-minded vibe. 

     

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