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A sturdy, grimly effective variation on an old horror/fable formula: the ups and downs that follow when a mortal man is given an occult power--here, the ability to cure cancer with a single touch. Alistair Kingsley, 50, surgeon at an Edinburgh hospital, gets a strange report after doing a biopsy on one of his cancer patients: yes, there's a malignancy, but the pathologist insists that ""the host seems to be setting up some kind of reaction. She appears almost to be overcoming the cancer."" At trust, Kingsley ignores this ""ambiguous pathology,"" continuing to operate. But when the same results--""resolving carcinoma""--turn up in every patient he has examined, Kingsley begins to wonder. Could he really have a healing touch? So says weird Dr. Dhangi, an elusive Indian pathologist who offers mystical evidence that Kingsley is the ""palefaced one"" prophesied in ancient Hindi hymns and chants. And then, when Kingsley's wife Sheila develops bone cancer, with leg amputation the only hope, he puts all his faith in his new healing powers--postponing Sheila's operation; curing her with his occult touch, and rewarding Dr. Dhangi (whose presence is required for the touch to work) with a permanent hospital post. Soon, however, ""the sheer scale of the new obligation"" appalls Dr. Kingsley. Even worse, it eventually becomes clear that his miraculous power can only be maintained if Dr. Dhangi is allowed to commit an endless series of gruesome ritual slayings. So, finally, with help from a colleague, Kingsley must fight against this evil spirit . . . even if it means losing his healing powers forever. Short-story material, stretched a bit thin even at a modest 200 pp.--but creepy, unsettling entertainment for unsqueamish readers.

Pub Date: Jan. 25th, 1984
Publisher: St. Martin's