After some opening chapters that promise the sort of ripe lust-and-action that enlivened East Wind, Rain, Nash's new big-fat-book bogs down badly in angst, talk, and theology. The Pope is dying, radical terrorists are attacking Catholic clergy (an excessively gory crucifixion of a cardinal), and liberal Father Michael Farris, a favorite of the Pope, is eager to do whatever he can to hold the Church together. So he agrees to a mission that might placate conservative Cardinal Cavanaugh of N.Y. (whose plans to push for an arch-conservative Pope could mean the last straw for the Church): Michael goes to Jerusalem and persuades the Cardinal's strange painter brother to return to N.Y. But at young Cavanaugh's house in Jerusalem, Michael briefly encounters Nora Eisenstadt, a sardonic Jewish wench whose memory thereafter haunts Michael (he doesn't know yet that she is a failed social worker, a guilt-ridden prostitute, and one of the least appealing or believable neurotic females in recent pop fiction). In N.Y., while trying to convince Cardinal Cavanaugh to drop his reactionary game plan, Michael is wooed by a revolutionary sect and stalked by a ferocious female terrorist; but the big news is the reappearance of Nora, whose father's death has sent her, angry and drunk, into a passionate releasing of Michael's much-repressed but soon-resplendent lust. That's about it--with a strange absence of action or momentum, despite much heavy-breathing revelation of dull secrets. So how does it add up to many hundreds of pages? Well, each of Michael's and Norah's thoughts is much belabored. Here's the merest speck of Nora: ""Guilty, therefore I am. Guilt as the tenor of life, guilt as the climate, guilt as the ethic, guilt as the pain and the pleasure. . . ""). And conversation gives way to speech-making, especially when fuzzy theology is being bandied about. So: an inactive action novel tied to a derivative, messy priest-in-love novel; lots of feverish writing, enough tricks to keep dragging unsuspecting readers along to disappointment, a few strong scenes--but no magic at all.