The author of Shadow of the Beast and other novels has created a frightening portrait of madness. Vince Benedetto is a 33-year-old reporter for a suburban Chicago newspaper. For years he's been planning a major expose of the Mobhis father is loosely ``connected''but never gets around to it. His ineffectiveness turns into self-disgust and his delusions (he sees his wife as a predatory bird) become stronger. After an embarrassing scene with his father, Vince decides he'll ``cleanse'' the Mafia. He shotguns a capo and sends a note to a Chicago columnist: ``Organized Crime is Dying.'' Then Vince kills again, sending another note. The columnist makes the ``Gangster Killer'' a hero. Vince's mind deteriorates further and he turns on his wife and son. But close on his trail is tough, intuitive detective Jim Dela, out to get the crazy killer who's ``gone Hollywood.'' Screenwriter DiPego's short, cinematic scenes have pace and crackle. His greatest achievement, however, is the terrifying plausibility of Vince, even as he sinks to praying to his crazy dead grandmother and his shotgun, the ``Holy Instrument.'' A couple of scenes should be read with all the lights on. (May 15)
Keeper of the City is a tightly written novel by the screenwriter for Sharkey's Machine . Both killer and cop in this Chicago-set novel seem like candidates for the funny farm at the outset. The cop, James Dela, spends his time walking aimlessly when he's not persuading psychotic hostage-takers to kill themselves. The killer, newspaper writer Vince Benedetto, has a phobia about closets because of experiences in his childhood. Vince has embarked on a campaign to rid Chicago of mafiosi, but he breaks down completely and begins to kill even his colleagues and family. DiPego attempts to inject social commentary by including a journalist who represents our ambivalence about vigilantes. This adds nothing to his portrait of Vince, who is truly crazy. But this thriller does not need social significance to be good reading. Louise A. Merriam, L.E. Phillips Memorial P.L., Eau Claire, Wis.