The author of Glitteringlmages and Glamorous Powers scores a hat trick with this third novel in her series set amidst the ""cut-and-thrust battles"" and ""sheer Machiavellian skulduggery"" of the Church of England. Here, there are the familiar, intriguing theological underpinnings; characters from the early books return to do star turns; and, at the heart of it all, a stricken cleric faces his own surprising devils--ambition, misogyny, violence, and demon rum. Neville Aysgarth, Archdeacon of Starbury, is a gifted church administrator, righthand man to the Bishop of Starbury, with a perfect wife, Grace, five perfect children, and perfect prospects. But then a sizzling little socialite named Dido Tallent (""Oh, how I'd love to be a bishop's wife!"") crosses his path, strewing lust, chaos, and imperfection in her wake. Neville's ""dearest love"" Grace dies, leaving the Archdeacon free to chase Dido, his latest ""ultimate prize."" But their marriage two and a half years later becomes a loveless, Dantesque inferno, sending Neville too often to the sherry bottle, and eventually to spiritual counselor Jun Darrow. Before renewing his spiritual call and dealing with his marriage, Neville must search out villains in his murky past--a shattering quest as it becomes clear that Neville has been his own life's chief blackguard. Worldly themes are stronger here than in earlier series outings, making this one just as intelligent as Howatch has proven she can be, but even more vibrant.