Hitchcock, whose first novel, Trick of the Eye (1992), was nominated for an Edgar, ventures onto riskier ground with this mystery thriller whose heroine defies a cabal of modern-day Inquisitors intent on bringing back the male-dominant Dark Ages. Gently raised by a devout Catholic mother and a rare-book-collecting surgeon father on New York City's genteel Beekman Place, 35-year-old Beatrice O'Connell, in the throes of a midlife identity crisis, has recently moved back in with her father in the wake of a failed marriage. Intent on her own troubles, the timid researcher hardly notices when her father receives another rare book as a gift in the mail from a grateful patient. But this tome -- a 15th-century ""grimoire,"" or collection of black-magic spells, confiscated from a Nazi spy during WW II -- harbors powers that Beatrice never dreamed of. Almost immediately, its disturbing illustrations of a female succubus devouring an innocent male inspire the first stirrings of Beatrice's latent sexuality, sending her off on an unlikely sexual adventure in Spanish Harlem. When she returns home, she finds her father dead and the mysterious grimoire missing. Stunned by her father's murder, confused by her newly discovered lust, distracted by conflicting relationships with her philandering ex-husband, her mysterious new lover, and an eccentric occult-book dealer who idolizes her, Beatrice nevertheless devotes herself to tracking down her father's murderer and learning the secret of the grimoire. In the process, she uncovers a snake's nest of woman-hating, Bible-toting, powerful men intent on burning all feminist ""witches"" at the stake and reinstating the dominance of Christian manhood. Calling the cops is not an option here, Beatrice soon realizes. Only by releasing the ""wolf' inside herself can she hope to defeat this centuries-old expression of pure evil. Over the top, to say the least. Yet Hitchcock's clear, straightforward prose and civilized, articulate protagonists manage to keep the pages turning.