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Spotlight on: Trauma by Graham Masterton

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Trauma by Graham Masterton Graham Masterton, Trauma

Bonnie Winter is having some personal problems. Ever since her husband Duke's job was taken away by a Mexican, he has been bitter (and won't eat Mexican food) and she has been precariously holding down two jobs: one for Glamorex cosmetics as a representative, the other for her own crime-scene (or trauma-scene) cleanup company, Bonnie's Trauma Scene Clean.

Things take a strange turn when Bonnie finds an odd-looking caterpillar at three of her crime scenes. With some research, she discovers that the caterpillar is connected to an ancient Aztec legend about a demon (Itzpapalotl) who inspires people to kill "the ones they love the most." Coincidentally, all of the victims at these houses were loved ones of the murderers, including one doting father who killed his three children.

Originally published under the title Bonnie Winter as the tenth entry in the Cemetery Dance novella series, Trauma is 200 pages of relatively large print -- which makes me wonder if Signet couldn't have lowered the price a bit -- but in the end, it's worth the extra dollar or two: a tight little package of suspense that fires on all cylinders and doesn't waste a word.

I had never read a book by Graham Masterton before, but this one will not be my last. It has everything I look for in a novel, and more. Plus, its surface similarities to my current favorite guilty pleasure all but guaranteed that I would love it. (Murder mystery aspects combine with gruesome details and entomology to make Trauma, in some ways, resemble an insect-heavy episode of CSI, but with a tone of terror as opposed to puzzle solution.)

Masterton's skill at description is what truly carries the day, however. The crime scenes are lovingly described while not verging into exploitation. Also, the author evokes the day-to-day aspects of Bonnie's professions (and the relationships that come with them), grounding this novella in reality so well that, when the story takes a shocking turn near the end, we are all the more willing to follow right along, even when it veers occasionally into the surreal. Masterton takes a banal narrative and a seemingly-minor plot point and delivers a surprise that is wild yet completely organic to the story. Trauma is a quick read, but Bonnie Winter is not a character that you will soon forget.

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