Picks and Pans Review: Stone City

updated 07/23/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/23/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Mitchell Smith

A college professor gets into his car, legally drunk, drives off and kills a young girl. He is arrested, convicted and sentenced to a maximum security prison. He soon finds himself a citizen of an alien world, living among a citizenry who obey only the harshest rules. In such a world, men like Prof. Charles Bauman are not designed to last.

Then (as if things weren't bad enough) within the prison walls, a killer strikes. One after another, hard-time lifers are stalked and slaughtered. The killer could be anyone—a guard, a con, even a warden—hiding anywhere, primed to attack at any time. Prison officials turn to the one man they feel can bring an end to the carnage.

Guess who that is.

Bauman must now dig deeper into the stone city, searching for murderous motives without any clues. There he confronts the underground economy of prison life working at full throttle—daily doses of gambling, smuggling, payoffs and drugs, all the goods falling under the domain of the ruling prison thugocracy. Stone City is a chilling, brutal novel. The action is intense, the characters real and dangerous, the writing crisp, rich in passion, color and detail. Smith turned a few heads with his first novel, Daydreams. With this book, he gives those heads a few Exorcist twists.

His Stone City is a place without dreams, where a human life is on a par with a discarded pack of smokes and where the symbols of authority—and the men who represent that authority—are meant to be broken and maimed.

Mitchell Smith understands. Stone City does a slow walk through the corridors of injustice and slams the truth home. It is a hard novel to forget. (Simon and Schuster, $19.95)

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