Joseph Caldwell, Author . Sarabande $21.95 (284p) ISBN 978-1-889330-65-5 ISBN 1-889330-66-3

A brother and sister try to reconcile their inclinations toward good and evil in this rather muddled morality play that begins with Sister Rachel rejoicing about a large donation from her brother, Philip, that temporarily saves the troubled order she serves. Her happiness is tempered considerably when she learns that Philip, an accountant as well as a devoted amateur violinist, embezzled funds from his firm to get the money and has landed in prison. Caldwell spends the better part of the novel bouncing back and forth between Rachel's efforts to tend to the head of the order, who is dying from a terminal illness, and Philip's efforts to handle life in prison. The latter story is by far the more interesting, particularly when Philip is befriended by Starbuck, a frail young prisoner who seeks a physical relationship with Philip to protect himself from a pair of inmates whom he believes to be sexual predators. That relationship proves to be Philip's undoing, when a sadistic guard takes an interest in their coupling and his taunting of Starbuck finally drives Philip to an act of violence. Caldwell (In Such Dark Places, etc.) provides little background on either of his protagonists, throwing them into their respective moral quandaries so quickly that readers must scramble to catch up with their history, tendencies and psychological dispositions. This is a novel with some strong passages and intriguing moments, but the best episodes drift unmoored, only tenuously connected to each other. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 11/12/2001
Release date: 01/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
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