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The Red Scream    by Mary Willis Walker order for
Red Scream
by Mary Willis Walker
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 1995 (1994)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio

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* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

Molly Cates is a crime reporter who is seeing the realization of a cherished goal: her book detailing the life and crimes of serial killer Louie Bronk has just been published. Molly is planning a final interview with Louie before his imminent execution, a timely publication - and publicity - that will coincide with her book's release

However, both Molly's newspaper editor and the influential Charlie McFarland are warning her off this story. Louie confessed to the murder of McFarland's first wife Tiny, and McFarland hates the prospect of reviving traumatic memories for his now-grown children and once again facing the media circus. Molly is stunned when Louie Bronk recants his confession, invalidating her book. Had Louie fooled her and the police investigating Tiny's murder? No one seems to care. Louie is undeniably guilty of many other murders. If he is executed for Tiny's as well, what's the harm?

What begins as a furious attempt to save Molly's reputation and her work becomes a search for truth. One can only admire Molly's integrity and courage as she perseveres in her unpopular quest, despite the opposition of friends, despite threats, despite her own reluctance. Louie has a certain dignity as he asserts his innocence in this one death, and Molly is determined that he not die for a murder he did not commit. She fails to stop his execution, although she does uncover the truth behind Tiny's death.

Mary Willis Walker has written an excellent story. Its strength lies not in the mystery of Tiny's murder, but in the characters and their reactions to the dilemma facing the protagonist. Molly herself favours the death penalty; and although that stand does not change, her certainty is shaken. Though second novels do not always live up to the promise of the first, and I confess I prefer the characters and setting of Walker's excellent Zero at the Bone, The Red Scream is equally strong.

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