A sect of religious fanatics imprisons a dozen school-aged hostages in their Texas compound--and Walker gets a chance to show how a tough-minded writer might have turned Waco around. Fade in on Day 46 of the hostage crisis. The 11 kids and bus driver Walter Detaining, hidden in an underground bus for over six weeks, are near the breaking point when her editor persuades Lone Star Monthly reporter Molly Cates that her interview two years ago with Samuel Mordecai, self-anointed messiah of the Hearth Nazarenes, gives her the edge on the story of a lifetime. (The editor's obviously forgotten what a bang-up job Molly did in her Edgar-winning The Red Scream last year.) As she runs around interviewing likely contacts with Mordecai, Molly becomes obsessed with locating his birth mother, who abandoned him as an infant; if only she can reunite mother and son, she thinks, she just might provoke a breakthrough in the fruitless hostage negotiations. Molly doesn't know that the FBI isn't getting anywhere with Mordecai because there's no chance of his releasing the children: He plans a millennial sacrifice of innocents on the 50th day of their captivity. Led by burned-out Demming, who tries to rally them by telling an animal fable based on his hitch in Vietnam, the kids listen passively to Mordecai's daily preaching, practice their defensive maneuvers for the day they're sure is coming, and pray that the Hearth Nazarenes will get an all-important inhaler for an asthmatic hostage. Meanwhile, Molly, thrown back together with her hostage negotiator ex-husband and his killer dog, finally tracks down Mordecai's mother--but she's frantically angry and defensive, exactly the last person the authorities want to meet with Mordecai. What now? Nail-biting suspense from the first page, masterfully extended to the last. Check your political sympathies at the door, stock up on your blood-pressure medication, and enjoy.