Noted religious psychologist Peck (The Road Less Traveled, The Different Drum) turns to fiction in this ""novel of mystery and redemption""--a tale concerning the lives and issues brought into focus by the murder of loving, lively paralytic Stephen Solaris, 30-ish patient in midwestern nursing-home Willow Glen. Unable to speak or move his arms or legs, Christlike Stephen can communicate only by tapping on a letter board (""THOSE/WHO/ ARE/POWERFUL ARE/ ALWAYS/THOSE/WHO/HAVE/COME/TO/TERM S/WITH/THE/HELPLESSNESS/OF/EITHER/ AGING/OR/DISEASE""), but he's the favorite patient of pioneering Willow Glen director Edith Simonton, perceptive psychiatrist Stasz Kolnietz, and compassionate nurse Heather Barsten, whose sexual awakening of Stephen is abruptly halted by his murder. Novice Lt. Thomas Petri--looking for a suspect among a cast that includes randy Hank Martin; hate-filled double amputee Rachel Stimson; invincibly bovine nurse Bertha Grimes; and sleekly disciplined deputy director Roberta McAdams--chooses Heather as the most likely candidate for reasons that have less to do with her behavior than with his own psychological hang-ups. Everyone in Willow Glen, it seems, needs the kind of psychoanalytic insights the other characters are always ready to supply, and Peck's Christian-mystical didacticism (""Stephen had been human. And alive. He was human no longer. . .It was evil. The killing was evil"") will scare off some readers. Those who persist will find more redemption than mystery (at least of the detective-story variety), as Stephen's death brings new life to Heather, Petri, and Willow Glen. Homely, preachy, and moving--a kind of children's book for grownups: all the elements, in other words, for a strong commercial showing.