GINERVA by James D. Horan


Email this review


Ignore the hype that will attempt to connect this cult thriller to the horrors of Jonestown: Horan, a zesty enough writer of action-heavy intrigue (The Blue Messiah), has simply rehashed a few of the religious-cult clich‚s of the past (mostly a mix of the Moonies and Elmer Gantry), inflating them into a long, repetitious, outlandishly talky melodrama. Narrator ""Hilly"" Hillers is a young Vietnam-haunted journalist who is persuaded by his lawyer chum Ben to help investigate gorgeous prophetess Ginerva (who forecasts apocalypse) and her Society of the Chosen--a fast-expanding, Moonie-like operation with a homebase in upstate N.Y., a training center on Staten Island, and street beggars everywhere. Ingratiating himself with Foreman, the Society's top honcho, Hilly takes up residence at Society headquarters and soon discovers that ""Her Holiness"" Ginerva has some dark secret in her past--and that her business managers are out-and-out shysters. But at the same time he is mesmerized by Ginerva and impressed when she apparently brings off a couple of minor miracles. When fellow-investigator Ben is killed, however (a brainwash-induced suicide), Hilly goes all-out to expose the Society: he joins on as PR man for a national tour, enlists the help of some discontented aides, secures evidence of the money-skimming operation, survives two stints of brainwashing, uncovers Ginerva's sad secrets, and brings the whole scam into the open. No surprises all along the way (the fake miracles are easy to figure out), plus that talky, leaden pace--and prose that often slips from the serviceable to the glutinous: ""I felt a profound pity for Ginerva used by a cruel rogue such as Foreman. Few would realize the magnitude of his evil as I did. His ruthlessness revolted me."" And Horan's ostensible theme--""What can be done about these cults. . . without infringing on the constitutional fights of cult members. . .?""--is hardly served by his corny melodramatics. At half the length, this would have been passable, derivative suspense; as is, it's a predictable, overblown bore.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1979
Publisher: Crown