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Crime Fiction

September 24, 2006|By Sarah Weinman | Sarah Weinman,Special to The Sun

Girl in a Box

The Devil's Backbone

By Kim Wozencraft

St. Martin's Press / 400 pages/$24.95.

Kim Wozencraft might just be the noir fiction lover's dream: She writes characters so authentic that the reader swears he or she knows them in real life; her prose is spare and powerful with nary a wasted word; and as a narcotics cop turned junkie turned writer, she knows of what she's written about in her five novels. The Devil's Backbone is, as in earlier work, long on character, emotion and conflict, and if the plot - about two very different sisters whose divergent paths come back together thanks to a series of escalating brutal crimes - has been done before, Wozencraft injects the premise with necessary freshness and an uncanny ability to strike deep at the heart of human frailties. She's also able to get deep inside the head of Kit Metcalf, a promising student turned burned-out stripper whose damaged past and tenuous grip on reality add an extra layer of doubt and suspense as she faces up to the grimy seeds of her and her family's past. The Devil's Backbone takes the reader to unwanted places, but like the best of the genre, it's a journey well worth traveling.

Sarah Weinman reviews crime fiction monthly for The Sun.

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