In the beginning there is a certain coercion, part of which is curiosity, to make one's way through Mr. Smith's heavy-jowled and often heavy-handed parable of the death of the detective which on a larger scale -- massive in fact -- implicates the ""corruption"" of the ""American soul"" and the often diseased vile bodies in which it is incorporated. The incentive lessens considerably as anything this grandiose, this evangelical, and--be it admitted--this physically ugly, must. The scene is Chicago from the ghetto to the abattoir to the imposing estate where Frazer Farquarson lies dying before he meets a more unnatural end. He has written a letter to the detective, Arnold Magnuson, rich, retired and widowed, once the chief of the mighty agency he built up. This proves to be a literal chain letter as bodies and chimeras and interconnecting circumstances follow in its wake: from Farquarson to the putative father of his nephew-legatee (who turns out to be the son of his institutionalized wife via a mad ""Polack"") to innumerable other victims -- in fact ten corpses in four different sites. Death usurps the book as it has already usurped Magnuson -- ""The evil, natural ultimate force of death. But not so much a force as the working out of Magnuson's own spiritual destiny, which was in the end himself. Which was in the end no more or less than death."" Persevere if you will, but however writ large and spelled out, the Last Horseman remains an abstraction -- less imminent and less involving than we care to acknowledge.