A cult religious leader has a profound effect on the lives of a colorful cast of characters in this novel.
Franklin Yancey, born into wealth, is glad to spend his days being a Civil War–reenactment soldier, until a mysterious medical condition confounds his doctors and leaves him seemingly no choice but to seek help from Marcus, a spiritual healer. Gert, the struggling junior attorney assigned to Marcus’ asylum case, suspects that Marcus is keeping his followers drugged, so she enlists the help of Franklin’s wealthy aunt, Augusta, and an assortment of characters: Bryan, Gert’s colleague who battles mental illness; Theo, Franklin’s twin sister, who writes erotic poetry when not engaged in trysts with the gardener; and Jerry, a friend of Franklin’s, who lost the love of his life to Serrattanism, the same religion that Marcus claims to practice. Determined to rescue Franklin and bring Marcus to justice, Gert, Bryan, Theo and Jerry follow Marcus to his native Tyekane Islands and his religious fortress, Briare, where he has brought a very sick Franklin. The journey and their stay at Briare have a profound effect on each of the characters, and their lives are forever changed by what transpires on their mission. The complex, well-drawn characters will pull readers into the novel, and the fast-paced plot will keep the pages turning. But Franklin’s immaturity may seem a bit overstated at times: At one point, he insults Jerry, earning the rebuke from his sister. “Frankie! That wasn’t nice,” she says, to which he replies, “What he said wasn’t nice either.” It’s as if Franklin is a small child rather than a grown man, which could be attributed to the fact that he was abandoned by his parents and everyone around him seems content to coddle him. Drake, an island resident, introduces an intriguing mystery, but the explanation for his life on the island is a little too far-fetched; it introduces a confusing science-fiction thread into what had previously been a contemporary, relatively grounded story, albeit one with touches of unexplained spiritual miracles.
Despite small irritants, an engaging novel that examines the effects an obscure religion steeped in secrecy can have on the lives of modern Americans.