BLOOD MASK

Author(s): 
Prolific literary author Oates delivers her third suspense novel as Kelly, and the result is ... well, pretty much what one might expect from Oates writing suspense. A pretentious, artsy tale from locale (it's set at an artist's colony on the Hudson River) to presentation (non-linear storytelling with eccentric punctuation and repetitive, fragmented writing), this book masquerades as a mystery but is actually a bleak, troubled character study.

It opens with the ostensible kidnapping of Drewe Hildebrand and the discovery of her niece and ward, Marta, drugged and unconscious in the woods. But the mystery is largely abandoned for a series of hazy recollections of Marta's life with Drewe. At the artist's colony where they live, Drewe introduced Marta to the world of drugs and sex, and her treatment of the girl vacillated wildly between love and abuse, though Marta longed only for her affection and approval.

The narrative devolves into a messy, rather pointless series of scenes of emotional cruelty. To make matters worse, in the end, the author offers only an ambiguous, unsatisfying resolution to the mystery. (Jun., 256 pp., $24.95)
Reviewed by: 
Tara Gelsomino