Fade to Red by Linda Castillo
(Berkley, $6.99, PG/V) ISBN 0-425-19657-7
Fade to Red should be an apt title for a novel that is graphic in its cruelty, steamy in its sexual encounters and on the leading edge of the violence in the pornography industry. In retrospect, however, red is almost too pale a color description of the non-stop viciousness exhibited.

The story starts slowly and somewhat predictably as Lindsey Metcalf travels to Seattle to find her sister. Traci had called Lindsey begging for help, but she never responded to Lindsey’s callbacks. Older sister Lindsey not only loves Traci but is protective of her. Lindsey is still suffering the guilts from abandoning Traci when she left to college. Lindsey had been sexually abused by her step-father and had good cause to know that Traci would be the next victim when she left.

Lindsey ensconces herself in Traci’s home and begins to investigate. The pace picks up as she finds a home far in excess of Traci’s waitress salary. Discovering her sister is a topless dancer at a private club and the owner of a six-figure savings account only heightens Lindsey’s apprehension.

Hearing a telephone message from ex-cop Michael Striker drives Lindsey to his private investigator’s office for help. Striker is awaiting trial on first-degree felony assault. Being made an example in an election year he also knows that he is deserving of the felony charge. He almost battered to death the man who tortured and murdered his partner.

After a contentious start, Michael agrees to help Lindsey find Traci and the trail starts through the porno industry descending to the making of snuff films. The author’s research on the subject appears to be exhaustive and the reader is left with almost too much knowledge.

In many respects, Fade to Red is enlightening and original. The character development is a bit uneven but there is a whole lot going on in this book and probably too few pages to do it in.

It is very improbable that a reader new to the snuff film industry would read Fade to Red twice, since it will be pretty graphically imbedded in a reader’s thought processes. With the aforementioned caveats, Fade to Red is highly recommended.

--Thea Davis

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