cover image CULT: A Novel of Brainwashing and Death

CULT: A Novel of Brainwashing and Death

Warren Adler, . . Three Ponds, $21.95 (243pp) ISBN 978-0-9717049-0-9

Adler's 25th novel is a strident tale that delivers what the subtitle promises and little else. Human rights activist Naomi Forman is contacted by her former lover, Barney Harrigan, because his wife, Charlotte, has been pulled into an Oregon religious cult, leaving him and their young son, Kevin. The "Glories," who read like a combination of Moonies, Hare Krishna and Branch Davidians, see their leader, Father Glory, as the second messiah. Jewish liberal Naomi agrees to help, even as she still carries a torch for "Irish-to-the-core" Barney and suffers guilt: not only for breaking up with Barney (even after he had himself circumcised for her) but also for having secretly aborted their child before their affair ended. Between attacks of angst and sublimated yearning for Barney, Naomi explains the fundamentals of the Constitution and that, legally, there is nothing they can do. When Charlotte is discovered drowned, Barney enlists the services of deprogrammers to kidnap his dead wife's sister and another Glory mind-slave, hoping to get them to confess to murder. In turn, the Glories kidnap Kevin, and the narrative moves to an overbaked climax. Rushed and clumsily crafted, this potboiler seems to be a platform for spouting antireligious and right-wing rhetoric. Adler (War of the Roses) unblushingly equates extreme Islam and the attack on the World Trade Center with Waco and Jonestown, claiming several times that the sole motivation of Muslim terrorists is to spend eternity with 72 virgins. Well-wrought fiction will someday respond to the September tragedy in New York; this diatribe won't make the cut. (July)