cover image Mystical Paths

Mystical Paths

Susan Howatch. Alfred A. Knopf, $23 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-41205-2

Arguably no one writing today can equal Howatch's ability to write compelling novels that combine theology and psychology in a complex, fast-moving plot offering beautifully delineated characters and the suspense of a mystery/thriller. This fifth volume in her sequence dealing with the Church of England is also very much a story of fathers and sons. At 25, Nicholas Darrow, scion of eminent churchman Jonathan Darrow (seen in Glamorous Powers ) has inherited his father's psychic gifts, but overconfidence in his abilities and a dangerously frayed relationship with his father lead him close to the edge of an emotional abyss. Asked by the widow of his friend Christian Aysgarth to investigate her husband's death--Christian was drowned when swept overboard while sailing, but she fears that he committed suicide--Nick embarks on a quest that uncovers dark secrets in the linked lives of his friends and family. Howatch gradually reveals that brilliant, much-admired Christian had love affairs with both men and women, took drugs and was probably nearing a psychotic breakdown when he died. She makes a credible case for his demonic possession, which Nick attempts to prove via several ill-considered acts that bring peril to him and others. The novel's considerable suspense increases as Nick uncovers one astonishing revelation after another, and the denouement will leave readers breathless. 55,000 first printing; BOMC alternate. (May)