One sub-zero New Year's Eve, Linda Lou Craig is, according to her fiancée Bill Ray Brown, dropped off at her house after their date. The next morning her mother discovers her bed has not been slept in, Linda has vanished. The police can find no trace of her. They suspect she's been murdered and the signs all seem to lead back to Bill. Yet Bill Ray, who steadfastly maintains his innocence, is a quiet, well-mannered young man whose Christian family and behavior make him a highly unlikely suspect. The police are frustrated, the investigation stalemated until other young women disappear, most vanishing with the same eerie suddenness as Linda. After the body of one is found brutally and ritualistically slain, the police realize they are dealing with a psychosexual serial killer. The final dramatic confrontation between the accused and a tough prison psychologist is as chilling as the crimes themselves.
THE BOY NEXT DOOR is a riveting suspense novel, part compelling police procedural, part haunting portrait of the mind of a murderer.
Based on an actual case, this is a good police procedural and a fine psychological study of a serial killer. Linda Lou Craig, University of Wisconsin sophomore, fails to return home from a babysitting job on New Year's Eve, 1976. Her neighbor and fiance Bill Brown insists he dropped her off at 2 a.m., but chief detective Badger distrusts Brown, a squeaky-clean paragon. A bloodspot in Bill's car, several inconsistencies (Linda's mother swears the engagement was broken) and Badger's suspicions cast a shadow, but even with tough questioning Badger can't "get'' Bill. A year and a half later, a mutilated corpse (not Linda's) is found; then Linda's clothes are discovered. Bill commits a ``catch-crime'' and Badger begins closing in. Loken (Come Monday Morning) handles the small-town ambience and police work well, but the best part of the book is its realistic, almost non-fictional tone (reminiscent of The Stranger Beside Me) and the vivid portrait of the killer. The ending is bleak: none of the survivors finds any comfort. Foreign rights: Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. November