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Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts    by Laura Benedict order for
Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts
by Laura Benedict
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Like her previous Isabella Moon, Laura Benedict's Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts blends psychological mystery and horror (the balance leaning heavily to horror and the supernatural this time). It focuses on three women - Roxanne, Del and Alice - who have had an unequal friendship since elementary school at Our Lady of the Hills in Cincinnati.

Roxanne, the leader, can be cruel and has grown up to be a very successful artist. She works in clay and sells statues of blind children paired with birds of prey, her message being interpreted to be that 'there are some things that children should never have to see.' Delilah, Del, tries too hard - she wants desperately to have a normal life, is married to divorce lawyer Jock, and dotes on her five-year-old stepdaughter Wendy. Plain Alice has always been needy - her family's wealth has allowed her to pay for plastic surgery and 'Suzy Socialite clothes', but now her dentist husband Thad is leaving her for his pregnant assistant, Amber. And, oh yes, the girls enacted witchcraft when they were young - to conjure a lover - who shows up now in the form of the powerful, wealthy and charismatic Varick.

Varick, a disturbingly demonic character reminiscent of Charles Manson, begins by taking on a young pierced and studded henchman named Dillon, whom he seduces with a motorbike, a pair of lovely twins, and serious drugs. Dillon is Amber's brother. He runs Varick's errands as the latter goes after the three women, one after the other, pulling apart their lives. Why is he doing this? Readers learn that also, via back story revelations of what happened between the girls and the young Cuban priest, Romero, who was their teacher.

Though I can't say that I enjoyed reading Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts, I was pulled through the story by curiosity and horrified fascination, wondering how it would all end and who - if any - would survive. Laura Benedict is hard on her characters, even the innocent, but surprises us with hints of redemption. If you enjoy a mystery that delves deeply into horror and hints at the supernatural, then this one is for you.

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