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    Review of VERY BAD DEATHS by Spider Robinson (see his website)

    Baen, December 2004

    Russell Walker wants to be left alone to die--or commit suicide. But when his college roommate (Zandor, 'Smelly,' Zudenigo) from more than thirty years earlier appears on his doorstep with word that Zandor is a telepath and has accidentally learned of a horrible crime--planned by a man who thinks of himself of the artist of pain and torture, Russell knows he has to do something. His hippie/do-good past means that he can't walk away. The only problem is, they don't know the killer's last name, don't know who he intends to kill, and have no way to let the police know anything without exposing Zandor's secret. And Zandor knows that if the RCMP, CIA, FBI, NSA, or any other three letter organization ever learns of his existence, they'll kill him with their presence. Because even being near others is an assault on Zandor's telepathic senses.

    All of which means it's up to Russell--the world's most unlikely hero, doper, 1960s pacifist, and occasional newspaper opinion writer to track down and somehow stop a serial killer so dangerous he makes Bundy and the Boston Strangler look like kindergarters. What Russell does is somehow rope in Vancouver's most unlikely cop--a butch woman who can't get ahead partly because she's straight--and set off tracking down the few clues Zandor was able to gleen from the killer's mind before he flew out of range.

    Author Spider Robinson is a long-time SF favorite and his strong writing makes VERY BAD DEATHS a compelling read. Russell is occasionally annoying as he vacilates between smug and uncertain, but he's still sympathetic. Being the only guy on campus who could put up with rooming with 'Smelly' turns out to be a pretty good indicator both of his good-natured soul and of his inability to face up to challenges. When the tables get turned, Zandor, Russell, and Nika the cop are all forced to look deep into themselves, their beliefs, and ultimately betray much of what they thought they stood for.

    VERY BAD DEATHS is a thoughtful and powerful story.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 1/29/05

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