Books: The Villain as Victim

WELCOME TO XANADU by Nathaniel Benchley. 304 pages. Atheneum. $5.95.

Perhaps the pervasive influence of Freudianism has been felt most perversely in the genre of the thriller. Time was when characters were simply good or bad, threatening or threatened. But nowadays it is difficult to tell a real villain from a societal victim; too often the bewildered reader is caught between a hard shudder of fear and a soft sigh of compassion.

Welcome to Xanadu is a typical new thriller, as was John Fowles's The Collector. The plot is of the old-fashioned boy-terrorizes-girl variety—but with a psychotic twist added. Leonard Hatch, a...

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