Black cats, snakes, spiders, mystical signs and symbols and dangerous sex are skillfully stirred together in this brain-squeezing thriller from the South African–born author (The Midnight Side, 2001, etc.).
Following an arresting Prologue, which describes an eerie, fateful seduction, Mostert introduces her protagonist, Gabriel Blackstone, a 30-something Londoner who has turned his psychic “gift” into a thriving career as an “information thief.” When we meet him, he’s employing his talent for “remote viewing” (i.e., the ability to enter other people’s thoughts) by spying for a toy company on its competitor. Then Gabriel is contacted by wealthy investment banker William Whittington, and importuned to find the latter’s missing son Robbie, a request seconded by Whittington’s young wife, the former Cecily Franck, herself a remote viewer, and Gabriel’s former lover. When Gabriel “slams a ride” (telepathically) into an unidentified fourth party’s consciousness, he “visits” a mysteriously furnished mansion where “a nightmarish whirlwind of images and sounds” comprises a scene similar to that in the Prologue, and also to the interior of Monk House in Chelsea (which Gabriel visits), home of the alluring, eccentric sisters Minnaloushe and Morrigan, known to have been Robbie Whittington’s “close friends.” Meanwhile, interpolated diary entries kept by “M.” tease the reader with the possibility—gravely considered by the increasingly involved and baffled Gabriel—that one or both of the sisters has committed murder. Whether or not they are (as alleged) “direct descendants” of Elizabethan magus John Dee, both are absorbed in the arcana of astrology, hermetic philosophy, alchemy, witchcraft and the Renaissance art of constructing “memory palaces”—one of which, once entered, holds the key to the Monk mystery, and leads to an inordinately creepy finale whose working-out will cast a dark shadow over the rest of Gabriel’s life.
Mostert manages it all quite impressively, concocting an intellectual puzzler that will keep the reader hooked, and guessing, until the final page.