Kava’s third—pedestrian—outing employs a switch: this time it’s the mom who’s brain-washed and in a cult’s clammy clutches, the daughter striving to pry her loose.
The Reverend Joseph Everett, unholier than almost anybody, has got the moves, all right—that is one smooth-talkin’ dude! Girls, boys, matrons, whatever . . . a pathetic army of the emotionally needy, all suckers for his siren song, all on fire to part with cash, jewels, deeds to the family farm, and sexual favors—the seductive Reverend having only to ask. And of course he does, shamelessly and often. Special Agent Maggie O’Dell, storied profiler for the FBI (Split Second, 2001, etc.), first comes in contact with the Father’s Church of Spiritual Freedom when five jittery, cruelly exploited acolytes swallow cyanide pills rather than face FBI questioning. Shortly thereafter, a young woman who’d been in the crowd attending a C of SF rally, is found brutally murdered. When she's identified as a US senator’s daughter, pressure builds, and Maggie and her colleagues know they have to learn more about Father and his friends. Turns out to be a task less difficult than at first imagined, since Maggie’s mom, made vulnerable by loneliness, booze, and an array of disappointments thoroughly familiar to daytime TV audiences, has joined the Spirituals and is eager to proselytize. Horrified, Maggie tries to talk her mom out of her conversion, but how can Maggie’s arguments be expected to prevail when clearly Father knows best? Other murders follow, however, and soon enough the evidence against randy Reverend Everett piles up, becoming incontrovertible and leading, in the nick of time, to Kathleen O’Dell’s “come-to-realize.” Greatly to his surprise—most readers won’t share it—Father has one of those, too, along with a comeuppance. Kathleen’s experience is redemptive, Father’s definitive and richly deserved.
Comic-strip bad guys, spiritless good guys, overfamiliar plot lines. Not a top show.