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THRILL
By BARBARA PETTY (Dell; 1977)

A quintessentially 1970s concoction that gleefully mixes sex and bloodlust in a manner that would likely be deemed irresponsible today. Set in a convincingly detailed New York City business world, THRILL involves two women, the haughty businesswoman Katherine and the needy hanger-on Sandra, united by the fact that they're roommates--and also by a brutal murder.

     This novelís opening third reads like a female-centric CHASING HAIRY, with Katherine and Sandra finding themselves frustrated by the men in their lives and picking up the unsuspecting playboy Ted one night at a singles' bar. This leads to a torrid threesome at Ted's apartment, and his inevitable murder at the hands of Katherine, whose inner frustrations reach the tipping point when she catches Ted trying out some brutal S&M moves on Sandra.

     From there a newly emboldened Sandra takes charge, covering up the crime and dealing with the aftermath. She also rather impulsively contacts Katherine's estranged father, allowing her reckless nature to boil over. In the process Sandra lays bare her true feelings for Katherine, which reach far beyond friendly affection. Another murder is imminent, and this time Sandra is the aggressor.

     With THRILL author Barbara Petty has turned out a uniformly well written chiller whose psychological acuity matches its all-too-convincing portrayal of the business world. It also contains some genuinely winsome bloodletting, rendered all the more unsettling due to the ever-present undercurrent of perverse eroticism. Sandra in particular is unabashedly turned on by the violence, a fact Petty makes clear without any feminist pontificating (DIRTY WEEKEND this novel thankfully isnít).

     The author runs into trouble, alas, in her insistence on giving an unconscionable amount of verbiage to some superfluous cop characters investigating Ted's killing, nearly turning a compelling psychological horror story into a routine police procedural. The novel is at its best when depicting the twisted relationship between Katherine and Sandra, with most everything else falling flat. 

     

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