Edo Van Belkom,
Teeth
(Meisha Merlin, 2001)

This is one of those novels which is really hard to classify -- even the press release notes that "Teeth works on several levels: as an over-the-edge contemporary horror novel, as a police procedural, and as a thriller." I was intrigued by the cover ... a yawning red maw filled with rows and rows of sharp, almost feline looking fangs, fading to a black hole. The teeth are glistening, and since the wash is red, you can only assume that it is blood. All in all a rather distinct cover, and one which begins to work upon the imagination the moment your eyes fall upon it.

Edo Van Belkom has a great way with words, and after having written more than 175 short stories, as well as written or edited over a dozen books, this is not surprising. He has had a chance to hone and fully define his skills, so that each word penetrates the conscious and the subconscious with precision. Where it will linger and create a pit of horror deep within the imagination, which bubbles over in sync with the book's action.

Joe Williams is a detective in Brampton, Ontario, just northwest of Toronto. His beat has always been fairly quiet: the occasional murder, but nothing too serious. Now, things have changed -- and all for the worse. The sleepy, happy little town is rocked by the murder of a very well-known and powerful businessman, a murder of a style never seen before in this area. A very brutal and painful murder. The man was castrated.

By the third murder, Joe still has very few clues to go on. The only thing the victims all seem to have in common is a bar that they frequented, a bar called the Up Front Lounge. That and the fact that they were all misogynists -- they hated and were abusive towards women -- and their penises appear to have been bitten off by an animal. This isn't much for a cop to go on, thin clues which evaporate before they turn to anything concrete. The only concrete piece of evidence Joe has is a single tooth, which is formed from cartilage, not enamel. Nobody can pinpoint what species the tooth is from, and it is virtually useless, but it is the only clue which Joe has.

We get to know who the killer is, and watch as the victims are chosen and done away with. We also get to watch Joe try to piece it all together, while he deals with the loneliness of having a deceased spouse and a grown daughter about to leave the nest. It makes for a very deep and somewhat easy-to-relate-to tale on all fronts.

Everyone in this world has had abuse touch them in one form or another. None are fully innocent of causing another hurt, either. Edo has written this from a sympathetic viewpoint, one which allows for full understanding of the killer's motives.

The one thing I do have to say -- do NOT read any of the "praise blurbs" accompanying this book! There is one which gives away the whole story right at the beginning -- just one sentence spoils it all. I was so disgusted with that, that I almost couldn't bring myself to read the book. We have minds and can figure things out for ourselves, and I'd like the fun of doing so instead of having someone spoil it for me before I even begin to try. That is the one and only flaw I found in this novel, but sadly it could be fatal! So please, just dig right into the wonderfully captivating introduction by Richard Laymon and then the story itself. You won't be disappointed with Edo's abilities to weave a horrifying and spellbinding tale. This is one of the best that I have read in a very long time! This award-winning Canadian novelist will not disappoint you.

[ by Naomi de Bruyn ]
Rambles: 1 September 2001



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