The Holy Terror

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The Holy Terror

By Wayne Allen Sallee

Serial killer Frank Haid, dubbed the Painkiller by Chicago police and media, murders 18 people–all paralytics. Commanded by an unseen presence that he calls ”Father” and that speaks in the voice of an uncle whose rotting corpse he keeps in the living room, Haid destroys his victims (what’s left of them) and evidence in a way that puzzles police. Hardest hit are residents of Marclinn, a home for the handicapped, where survivors decide they must track down the madman themselves. Their efforts bring them into contact with Chicago’s weird underworld–including junkie/murderers and a deformed prostitute whose head grows out her chest–and their own true selves. Crippled physically and emotionally, Marclinn inhabitants must overcome their limitations before taking on their nemesis. Their unlikely front man is Evan Shustak, who is the novel’s centerpiece. About a hundred pages into the novel, he dons his superhero outfit – wrist braces, a “utility belt” from which hang bags of vitamins and aspirin, and a plaid heating pad for a cape then announces: “Crippled and insane, I am the American Dream!” “Sallee’s characters in “The Holy Terror” are like nothing we’ve seen since Flannery O’Conner sent Hazel Motes into the big city in her seminal novel “Wise Blood”. Like O’Conner, Sallee has the talent to make his repulsive denizens of the street readable with an absurd sense of humor. Of course, he also has the talent to make them extremely terrifying, and in the first part of the novel, he spends a good deal of time doing just that. Still, Francis Haid is one of the most sympathetic serial killers we’ve seen since Hannibal Lecter, but not because he’s witty. Sallee has created an unusual supernatural power, one that the reader will not forget, one that might make Haid as much of a savior as a murderer.”  — Rick Kleffel – Agony Column Reviews

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