ROBERT BLOCH – Lori. Tor, hardcover, 1989; reprint paperback, 1990.

   Speaking of brainless books, I’ve always enjoyed Robert Bloch’s mysteries, despite themselves. Bloch’s idea of detection is to have sundry characters run up to the protagonist and spill everything they know, leaving the detective/reader to decide how much of it is true and if the reasons they gave for spilling it are what they seem.

   Bloch started plotting this way with Spiderweb in 1954 and was still at it thirty-five years later with Lori (1989). Not that Lori is a bad book, exactly. Bloch was always too good a pulpster to write something dull, and his pleasure in his craft is evident throughout, with colorful characters, a corkscrew story, and the light, gruesome prose he did so well.

   What there is of a plot revolves around a young woman, newly-graduated from college and suddenly orphaned, who finds a twenty-year-old college yearbook (carefully hidden from her) with her picture in it.

   Bloch takes this premise and runs amok with it, throwing in well-timed (but otherwise unexplained) murders, nightmares, spiritual possessions, and the usual parade of “helpful” friends who may not be all they seem. He cheats outrageously from time to time, but somehow that didn’t diminish my enjoyment, and when I closed Lori, it was with a smile of satisfaction.