The theft of a famous diamond--the Suleiman Pebble--from a cathedral in France is but the first overt step in an inexorable chain of circumstances that will force Frank Murphy (an expatriate American alcoholic stuck in a decaying marriage to a beautiful member of an impoverished monarchist family) to carry the cross in a walking pilgrimage to Jerusalem. His companions in Christ include an ex-prostitute who has supposedly (but not really) received a miraculous cure, her former pimp, a priest, an atheistic asexual ex-abortionist, and several newsmen--ostensibly to record their travels but in fact to keep them from breaking their remunerative but apparently deadly contract. For what starts out as a religious stunt engineered by Marfeau (a kind of Catholic Billy Graham) quickly reveals itself to be infinitely more complicated when the evangelist and his henchmen are all ""accidentally"" killed and the Pebble one day pops out of the Crucifix. Yet this is no mere smuggling operation, but the long-scripted climax to the lifelong vendetta of Meyer Alinsky (one of the world's richest men, rumored to have bought off the Egyptian Army during the Six Days War)--the vicarious punishment of the unknown young men who raped his young bride 22 years previously in Iowa. And yet . . . it is something else again, which should come as no surprise from the author of Principato and Farragan's Retreat--novels that in various ways touch on the self-destructive nature of obsession and revenge. For this talented author's moral universe always turn on itself in absurd bitter fashion, scattering carnage and unpredicted pain, and leaving a few--the knowing rather than the innocent--to pick up the pieces.