The hostages are the captives of Adam Newman, man of letters, lying dead by his own hand as the book opens. They have gathered at Los Cerros ostensibly to bury him, actually to assess their identities separate from him. Central figures in the frieze of mourners are Molly, a cousin who had come as a young girl to live with the Newmans, had become Adam's amanuensis and, for a brief time after his wife Helen's death, his mistress, and Adam's daughter Bresoia, whom Molly considers a ""vandal by choice."" In answering Brescia's summons to Los Cerros, Molly is determined to exorcise the influence of Brescia as well as that of Adam. In mining the past for the essential Adam, she recalls too the child whom she had loved, who has grown up to use the love of others, then cast it carelessly, wantonly aside. She understands at last that Brescia has lost in Adam's suicide her God, that Brescia is indeed the most enchained of Adam's hostages, to be set free with that understanding. An elliptical, ambitious novel which earnestly explores the nature and influence of the ""entirely directed man"" of genius, and the moral and psychological fall-out engendered by his acts. For those who enjoy difficult spiritual diagnoses.