is an erotic thriller that examines the themes of innocence lost and
redemption. It does so against a backdrop of incest and corruption with
a protagonist disillusioned enough to survive in a modern world but
still capable of believing in, and acting on, a traditional concept of
Late one night, Richard Garcia, a writer
for the Los Angeles tabloid, Weekly Purge, discovers the body
of a young woman washed ashore on Venice Beach. The former literature
professor from Los Angeles University lost his job two years ago after
being accused, justly, of having an affair with a student. In the
intervening years, Garcia has sunk into self-pity and cynicism to make
up for the disappointing turn in his life. But Garcia still retains some
moral idealism; it is rekindled when he decides to investigate the
Research is nothing new to a Ph.D. and
Garcia plunges into the case with the fervor of a man in search of
redemption. Hassled by the police who are not interested in solving the
case, Garcia meets a series of people connected to the dead girl, Sally
Van Meter. They include Collier, a lawyer; a morgue doctor, Michael
Bernsen; Horace Dodge, septuagenarian real estate mogul; Kristen Bowren,
his former student and lover; Kristen's mother; and Laura Bernsen.
Garcia follows clues to Seattle where he
meets, and falls for, Sara Good, director of a homeless shelter. Through
Sara, Garcia reveals his true aptitude for goodness and signals his
instinctive choice of the right side of the struggle that engages him.
With Sara's help, Garcia is able to untangle the mystery surrounding the
short life of Sally Van Meter.
Not by coincidence, Horace Dodge is the
father of Sally, the product of an incestuous relationship the pedophile
has forced upon his teenaged children. The archetype of dysfunctional
families, all of Dodge's off-spring have banded together to gather
information and blackmail Dodge on a litany of illegal activities. Back
in L.A., Assistant D.A. Dan Stokes enlists Garcia's aid in gathering the
information to be used in prosecuting Dodge and the corrupt city
officials on his payroll.
In the end, Garcia is surprised to learn
that Sally's death was an accident. Nevertheless he is galled by the
immorality of Collier, Laura, and others who concealed the truth because
it interfered with their own plans. This event signals the complete
reversion in character of Garcia from manipulative misogynist to hero,
in the classical Greek sense.
In reflecting upon his own loss of
integrity, the sacrifice of any dignity in Sally's death, and the
corrupting influence of politics and money, Garcia learns that he, and
all of Dodge's children, have been victims of COLLATERAL DAMAGE:
the inadvertent and unavoidable death of innocents in battle.