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Engrossing, page-turning finale to Howatch’s trilogy chronicling a healing ministry in the City of London (The Wonder Worker, 1997, etc.).

In this last installment, an unlikely pair, a beautiful lawyer and a male prostitute, find vindication and redemption. The story begins with Carta Graham, who takes refuge at St. Benet’s church after husband Kim, under the influence of malevolent psychic Elizabeth, commits suicide. Former lawyer Carta has volunteered to raise money for St. Benet’s healing center, but soon finds herself involved in much more than tapping fat cats for donations. As events unfold, Carta nearly destroys her relationship with longtime lover Eric Tucker before she faces the truth about her emotions and her past. For help with her fundraising efforts, Carta consults her erstwhile law partner Richard Slaney, who confesses to being in love and then suddenly dies. Carta keeps Richard’s appointment with the mysterious “G,” who turns out to be Gavin Blake, a handsome heterosexual who provides sex to wealthy gay men for a fee—pimped by the sinister Elizabeth. Their meeting leads to encounters with the seamier and eventually dangerous aspects of London life, described by Gavin and Carta in alternate chapters. Carta is briefly attracted to Gavin, who cynically tries to woo her by raising big bucks for St. Benet’s. But the church’s staff discerns that he is deeply troubled and needs help. Gavin resists until he learns that Elizabeth has stolen his earnings and now wants him dead. He’s not your usual hero, but Howatch gives Gavin his due as he finds the courage to do battle with the powers of darkness. A daring escape, the arrest of a lethal pornographer, and a subsequent trial change both protagonists’ lives, as Gavin finally seeks help and Carta finally acknowledges that she too has some unfinished business in her life.

Gripping, and as much a moral thriller as a good yarn.

Pub Date: May 3rd, 2004
ISBN: 1-4000-4147-3
Page count: 496pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2004


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