Picks and Pans Review: Magdalena the Sinner

updated 10/13/1997 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/13/1997 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Lilian Faschinger

When first we encounter the leather-clad Magdalena, she has just disrupted a Pentecostal mass, kidnapped the priest at gunpoint, then spirited him to a remote Austrian forest. After binding his wrists and ankles and gagging him with her black Kashiyama bodysuit, she informs the stunned priest, "I want to make a confession," then muses, "Had I arrived at the idea of forcing someone to hear me out sooner, perhaps I would not have become a murderess and killed seven men."

In the hands of Austrian novelist Faschinger, Magdalena's ensuing remembrance of murderous things past proves a dazzlingly inventive romp. As the seductress details each of her wicked affairs, from erotic first encounter to violent finale, she digresses frequently to skewer pretentious academics, overeager consumers and anyone else she finds guilty of leading truly impure lives. Over time her eloquent monologue proves less a confession than a seduction, aimed at piercing the self-righteous chastity of her hostage. Though the arc of Magdalena's confession lacks novelistic tension, the prose is so lush and each of the seven fatal affairs so richly imagined that, like the priest, readers will find themselves spellbound. (HarperCollins, $23)

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