The X-Files might be useful here as a kind of litmus test. For those who love the TV mega-hit, this fourth in La Plante’s creepy-crawly series (Steroid Blues, 1995, etc.) stands a better than average chance of finding favor. X-File naysayers should probably look elsewhere. Because reality—or what’s commonly accepted as such—gives way here to a set of operating principles difficult to describe and even harder to define. This makes for a world in which anything is possible and nothing—perish the thought—requires the anchoring of conventional science. “We’re all just one big mind,” says a La Plante character who’s got it figured out. X-File fans will no doubt know what that means, or at least be comfortable with not knowing. They’ll also be prepared for Justin Gabriel, a heartless killer who commits his crimes while locked away in Philadelphia’s Greaterford prison. By hiring hit men? Nothing so mundane. He dreams his way—it’s a “spontaneous transmission of energy ‘’ thing—into his victims— minds and frightens them into cardiac arrest. Bill Fogarty, retired cop and one of the series heroes, becomes a case in point. He’s being driven to distraction by a terrifying Gabriel emanation—an enormous black bird of prey. No one else can see it, but it haunts Fogarty, who obsesses over it, can’t get free of it, and is being destroyed by it. Enter his pal Joey Tanaka, forensic pathologist, martial arts specialist, and co-series hero, who rids Fogarty of his demon. How that happens—a kind of Pilgrim’s Progress to a Zenlike never-never land—forms the burden of La Plante’s tale. Not for everyone, obviously: too strange, too surreal. Yet it’s paradoxically true that the most affecting thing in the novel is the friendship between Fogarty and Tanaka—indomitable, imperishable, and as traditional as David and Jonathan.