For all the strain and turmoil of the plot, there is something curiously dead or inert at the heart of this novel about an American mining company buying a mountain in a Mediterranean country called only ""the Republic"" and beginning to mine the mountain into smithereens because of its unbelievably high-grade copper ore. But the mountain is also the shrine of St. Vichinos; it is holy ground and the property of the church. Can the church, which is being administered' corruptly from a far city, sell the Kalepia townspeople's sanctified mountain to the Americans? It can and does. We watch the issues unfold through the eyes of Julian Alastos, a young mining engineer who has spent eight years in America and England and has come home to witness his father's last illness and settle down in Kalepia. But the townspeople are divided between those who work for the mine and those who apparently need a just cause with which to excite their worst passions. There are pictures on walls of Uncle Sam copulating with Mother Church. Alastos' old girlfriend Ekaterina has married and is not making herself available, despite her estranged husband. And American Oldenberg, the head of the mine, is highly despicable, so Alastos finally joins the hothead Kallis to help blow up the bridge leading from the mine. The ""tragic end"" is vastly pointless and riddled with stock responses--and everyone goes about his or her spitefully narrow-minded business without anything resembling living words or gestures. Novelistic taxidermy.