Newman's fifth horror/thriller lives up to both the best and the worst of his earlier novels. Like Anno-Dracula (1993), The Quorum is a modern vampire myth, complete with a dark overlord (Derek Leech) -- a combination of Swamp-thing, Aphrodite (he emerges complete from the mucky, polluted Thames), and Pinocchio (his goal is to fulfill his function as catalyst for betrayal and thus earn his right to be human, which is manifested at the end of the novel when he finally achieves a sense of smell). Unlike the bloodfest in Anno-Dracula, the horror in this book is psychological. Leech proposes a Mephistophelian deal to three young men (Mark, Mickey, and Michael, who make up the Quorum): If they spend the first six weeks of every year systematically torturing their friend Neil, they will be rewarded for his suffering with fame and fortune. For 15 years everyone sticks by The Deal (although Mark, more of a Faustus than the others, does try to withdraw at one point). Leech becomes a media magnate, Michael a TV celebrity, Mickey a rock star, Mark a comic-strip creator. The book moves back and forth in time, showing us how the Quorum ruins Neil's pitiful life. We see the present through the eyes of Sally Rhodes, a single mother (she calls her child ""The Invader"") and small-time private eye. Sally is a new breed of female detective: in love with the process of digging for information, capable of calculatingly seizing an opportunity but also of excessive righteous indignation. She is as interesting as Leech and, like him, woefully underused and underdeveloped. The low stakes are the undoing of this story, and most of the Quorum's schemes for torturing Neil are turgid and banal. For amateur theologians and a few flagellants, the ruminations on the true nature of sacrifice might be of interest; for everyone else, a yawn.