cover image Sacrifice


John Farris. Tor Books, $22.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85067-8

Large wonders are sacrificed to thin effects as Farris anchors this fanciful trek into Mayan lore with precise detail. A composer of terrors (The Fury) and suspense thrillers (All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By), Farris seldom shocks with tidbits of horror but rather enriches his suspense with far-out plums of plot washed in daily life. Greg Walker, who owns an RCA Servicenter in Georgia, never ages. A member of a Mayan cult, he keeps his longevity abloom by rendering up the living heart of a virgin daughter during an eclipse of the full moon every 19 years. Now over 150, but with the body and mind of a 45-year-old, Greg prepares his latest child, 17-year-old Sharissa, for the old gods in Guatemala. Will C.G. Butterbaugh, a local detective, be able to save fellow tennis player Sharissa from a bloody eclipse, especially when her dad can survive a direct gunshot to the forebrain? And who were Greg's earlier wives and sacrificial daughters? A strongly told story degenerates into sadism, though dashes of Mayan history add a civilized touch, while Greg proves a forgettable character, lacking the inner riches of someone perhaps twice the age of John Gielgud. Though Farris writes with an expert hand, he loses much to the demands of the genre. (Sept.)