Picks and Pans Review: Godfires

updated 08/05/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/05/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by William Hoffman

This violent suspense novel is fast and breathtaking almost from the first page. The locale is a pitiful little tobacco town in Virginia. Billy Payne is a county attorney whose wife has left him. He and his father, who scorns him, drink too much. Billy also loves the county's richest and most beautiful woman. When her husband's body is found on the river bank, the local doctor can't determine the cause of death. The state examiners in Richmond can't do any better. The sheriff, who plans to replace Billy with his own nephew, is a wonderful character, the sort who knows exactly when to pick his nose. The dialogue is often imaginative, as when a crusty old judge offers Billy a drink: "I don't suppose good liquor ever cooled a man none in his body, but it will surely send a breeze through his mind." Hoffman, author of eight other novels, does one especially daring thing: He unravels his elaborate plot from both its beginning and end at the same time—withholding until the last moment the identity of the villain who is holding the hero captive, chained to a millstone, in a swamp hut. There is some steamy S&M, and both the town and the story overflow with religious fanatics. Godfires will make the blood race—it's bang-up entertainment. (Viking, $16.95)

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