After a promising beginning that seems to be farce, Jones' latest (Passage Through Gehenna, 1978; Season of the Strangler, 1981) contorts into a tract on 19th-century metaphysical questions masquerading as a crime novel. The echoes of Dostoyevsky and Macbeth grow deafening. One-time southern redneck, now English graduate-student Wendell Corbin returns to the county of his origins. He hides his past from all who know him. An astonishingly unattractive protagonist, Corbin is motivated by contempt for the South in general and his own family in particular. When he discovers that the unpleasant elderly woman next door is aware of his secret and unillustrious beginnings, he revenges himself on her by seducing her daughter (the adulterous lovers frequently discuss Nietzsche). When Corbin is set up by a local drug-kingpin to appear to be buying marijuana, he is blackmailed into joining ""the Company,"" a drug-smuggling operation whose arms reach from South America throughout the US. One night, Corbin helps unload bales of marijuana from an airplane. He launders money in a Cayman Islands bank. Sick of teaching Freshman English, Corbin now finds crime thrilling. He informs the drug kingpin that his elderly neighbor suspects the kingpin of being a smuggler--and Corbin is ordered to kill the old woman. With talk of ""supermen beyond good and evil,"" Corbin then enlists the aid of his lover to kill the elderly woman, her own mother. Evil leads to evil, murder leads to guilt, and guilt leads to suicide. Near the end, stricken with remorse, Corbin contacts the FBI, but not a scintilla of evidence of his adventures exists. His sanity is doubted. Reality or illusion? Characters remain two-dimensional--each seeming no more than a facet of a philosophical argument--and few readers will wade through the florid meditations here that repeatedly halt the action.