From down under comes this haunting novel that quivers with an unsettling eroticism and a mystical sense of dread. Koch (Across the Sea Wall, The Year of Living Dangerously) conjures up a quietly obsessed narrator--a young man addicted to ""a life at one remove""--whose spiritual quest gives shape to this unusual narrative. Crippled in youth by polio, Richard Miller retreats into a world Of fantasy and fable, and discovers in that dreamlike realm the convergence of time present and time past, But this transcendent journey also amounts to a loss of faith, a not-so-difficult rejection of the Catholic religion imparted to him by the cruel Christian Brothers who run their Tasmanian school like ""a penal colony."" Painfully self-conscious and therefore vulnerable, the limping boy comes under the influence of ""the doubleman""--the demonic Clive Broderick, an apparently ageless man, whose lessons in music and the occult intrigue Miller, his roughneck cousin and classmate Brian Brady, and their strange new friend, Darcy Burr, already a guitar virtuoso under Broderick's tutelage. Years later, after Richard has spent time as a radio actor in Melbourne, and Darcy and Brian have roamed the land as a country-and-western act, they all converge in Sydney, where Miller's now a rising young producer at the Australian Broadcasting Service. He and Darcy decide to transform their knowledge of and passion for esoterica into a commodity: a musical group developed for TV that includes Darcy, Brady, and Miller's beautiful wife, Katrin. These electric folkies clearly have sympathy for the devil. Their phenomenal success indeed seems the result of a Faustlike pact. When everything falls apart, and Darcy reveals himself to be like Broderick (i.e., Evil incarnate), Miller finds himself back where he started--in the Catholic Church. He abandons his tortured, paganist past. Never schematic, Koch's incantatory novel, perhaps rightly, raises more questions than it resolves (is Broderick the Devil? Is Darcy Miller's doppelganger? Is the ending an exorcism?) And the exotic time and place, Australia in the Sixties, well serve his admirable ambition.