The author of the critically acclaimed novels Dangerous Attachments and Acquired Motives is back with another spellbindingly original thriller featuring forensic psychiatrist Sylvia Strange. Now, in Dantes' Inferno, Sylvia is called to Los Angeles from her New Mexico home when a massive explosion blasts through the J. Paul Getty Museum, endangering children on a field trip and claiming two lives. The police peg notorious bomber John Dantes as the mastermind, even though he's in a maximum-security prison, serving a life sentence for another bombing he claims he didn't commit.
Dr. Strange, a genius at accessing the most tortured psychiatric cases, is called in to evaluate Dantes. The prisoner is said to be unreachable -- and renowned for psychologically terrorizing his every visitor. But Dr. Strange forms a sudden, and unsettling, connection with Dantes. There's something about the enigmatic loner and his obsession with Los Angeles that both confounds and unnerves her. She's not at all convinced he's the man behind the bombs now ripping through the city -- but she is convinced he holds the key to finding the real bomber. The problem remains: how to get at Dantes? The police department's drug-and-interrogation campaign effectively stupefies the patient, and Dr. Strange's inability to "get results" troubles her deeply pragmatic supervisor, who in turn challenges her approach, her ability, and her intuition. As the death toll rises, so does public outcry, and sanctions against the fully demonized prisoner are further tightened. With the clock ticking on a bomb promised to be of epic proportions, Dr. Strange's sovereignty over her patient is slipping away -- along with, seemingly, her sanity.
Dantes' Inferno is a hypnotic, heart-pounding journey to the soul of madness that reveals disturbing and darkly universal truths about human nature. It is Sarah Lovett's best thriller yet.
Despite a derivative and formulaic plot about a terrorist intent on blowing up Los Angeles, forensic psychologist Dr. Sylvia Strange's fourth outing (after 1998's A Desperate Silence) should keep suspense fans turning the pages. Strange comes to L.A. to interview convict John Dantes as part of a profiling study of incarcerated bombers. Dantes is serving a life sentence for an explosion in the Malibu Getty Museum that killed several fifth graders and their teacher the year before. While Dantes has claimed responsibility for several earlier political-protest bombings, he denies involvement in the Getty outrage. Meanwhile, further explosions are causing chaos in L.A., and Strange becomes convinced that Dantes knows the identity of the new bomber on the block. With the help of various law enforcement officials, as well as unofficial (but brilliant) terrorist tracker and amateur sumo wrestler Edmond Sweetheart, Strange pursues the killer through deepening circles of purgatory and punishment into the dark guts of the subterranean city. Sprinkling the story with references to Dante's Inferno, Lovett builds an extended and predictable metaphor for Los Angeles as nine-circled Hell. L.A. noir is a rich territory already well explored; this novel sets its characters down a skillfully wrought but never truly surprising path of destruction.