cover image PHONING A DEAD MAN

PHONING A DEAD MAN

Gillian Cross, Author . Holiday $16.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8234-

Cross (Tightrope) wraps a haunting tale of spiritual rebirth in gripping, post-Soviet suspense. Devastated when her older brother, John, a demolition expert, is reported killed in an explosion in Siberia, Hayley agrees to accompany his wheelchair-bound fiancée, Annie, on a trip from England to the scene of the accident. As Hayley and Annie travel deeper into Siberia (in the company of gangsters and a mafia leader with his own deadly agenda), Annie discloses grounds for doubting John's death. Meanwhile, in the Siberian forest, simple-minded but kindly Frosya finds a wandering stranger—amnesiac and ill—and nurses him back to health. The nameless man's odyssey mirrors the life cycle and classic stages in moral and spiritual development. At first, the childlike Frosya spoonfeeds him, as if he were a baby, and teaches him to walk again; his next guides are a child, then an adolescent, and so forth until the introduction of a saintlike man who is willing to die for him. Appreciation of this novel doesn't require awareness of its allegorical underpinnings—the plotting is tight, the foreign setting magnificently rendered and the characterizations intense. And those attuned to the inner narrative of resurrection and redemption can expect this book to resonate long after it is read. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)