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We have seldom read a novel with such a varied and yet totally convincing cast of characters. The heroine, Tricia Goode, is a typical innocent young girl, but she is deeply disturbed because she seems to hate everything about her life without fully understanding why. In strong contrast to her is the cold, selfish Vicky Martin, the “beautiful bitch” of the book's title, whose arrogant actions directly or indirectly influence all of the action. Then there are the men— Roger Martin, Patrick Doyle, Larry Stevens— who all quite clearly have tangible goals of one sort or another and will sacrifice almost anything to reach them.

There are others, including Lee Jergens, the lesbian whose chief and completely overt goal is to convert Tricia to her way of life. We do not wish to give away too much of the plot at this point, however, except to note that as in all worthwhile fiction the action depends on the reactions and influences those characters have on each other. We do not think we will give away the ending if we say that it is Tricia's discovery of a genuine “role” for herself rather than any “goal” imposed on her from without that brings about the surprising but fully believable climax.

Narrow-minded readers may find some of the scenes shocking as men and women alike toss conventional moral behavior aside in their greedy search for pleasure, money and power. But these are the scenes that flesh out the skeleton of the plot and make it come to life. Thoughtful readers will take them as they are intended: essential illustrations of the theme.

And the theme just may be one of the most vital you have ever encountered.

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