A metaphysical thriller by the author of, among others, Telling Time (1995), this one about the human need for gurus both religious and secular. The events here, described from multiple points of view, are set into motion when Harry Field, an elderly professor looking after his baby granddaughter, allows Oliver, the child's absentee father, to take her to the park. Only too late do Harry and his daughter Judy realize that the child has fallen into the hands of the cult to which Oliver belongs--a group led by Miller, a man who claims to be God. Animated by distrust of Judy and a wish for power, Oliver is a cut-rate Raskolnikov who's inspired the fanatical loyalty of a lonely retarded man, Nick Foster. Oliver and the baby end up at the rural New Hampshire commune of Miller's ragtag followers. Davey Leo, a peaceable academic who hopes to win Judy's love by proving himself a hero, follows them there. But after Davey manages to reunite Judy with her daughter, other bizarre developments unfold: Oliver concocts a scheme to kill Davey that ultimately backfires; Loomer, Miller's possible successor, brings Davey to a secluded island for a strange mock trial; happily married Harry finds himself courted by his nostalgic old lover Lena; and Miller Farm, armed for what its population believes to be an impending Armageddon, edges toward confrontation with the local townspeople. Throughout, Wright highlights his characters' need for mentors and guides--from Nick's idolization of Oliver to Davey's awe of his colleague Harry--as well as their latent capacity for violence. Still, despite many moments of genuine emotion--the encounters between Harry and Lena, the appearances of the surprisingly sympathetic Miller--the characters in general are wooden embodiments of ideas who fail to lend plausibility to a disjointed plot.