Deftly combining the sacred and the profane--the unmistakable hallmark of her fiction over the past decade--Susan Howatch gives us a spellbinding, suspenseful and psychologically intense new novel.
The financial heart of London--the City--is an adrenaline-charged square mile deep in recession in the 1990s, a place where sex is just another commodity to be bought and sold in the marketplace. And the City is where the life of Gavin Blake, who sells sex to high flyers, is finally about to unravel.
In the center of the City is St. Benet's, a church that ministers to the casualties of this affluent but amoral society. Carta Graham, the St. Benet's fundraiser, is at once attracted to Gavin when they meet through a mutual friend, but slowly she realizes that she has entered a relationship far more complex than she could ever have imagined.
Gavin is desperate to escape from his world of prostitution, pornography and violence, but as his involvement with Carta and St. Benet's deepens, the dangers that encircle him escalate until his life itself is on the line. Carta is determined to help him--but will their mysterious journey together be lifesaving or soul-destroying? All she can do is fight her hardest to help Gavin survive.
Consistently surprising and powerfully moving, The Heartbreaker is Susan Howatch's most gripping novel yet.
The heartbreaker of the title is a stylish and gorgeous young man by the name of Gavin Blake--a newcomer to Howatch's popular Church of England series. Set in 1992, two years after the conclusion of the last entry in the series (The High Flyer), this latest details Gavin's life as a high-class prostitute in London and his involvement with characters who will be familiar to readers of the series: Carta Graham, a well-heeled former lawyer; Nicholas Darrow, the charismatic rector of St. Benet's church; and the mysterious Elizabeth, Gavin's pimp-mistress with a shady past in the occult and New Age healing. Carta and Gavin meet when a friend of Carta's suddenly dies--and she discovers that he was a secret homosexual and one of Gavin's clients. As the story unfolds in parallel first-person narratives, the cocksure Gavin is shown in an increasing state of unraveling as his life is revealed to be less than the hip, bed-hopping blast he portrays it to be. Meanwhile, Carta--who fends off innuendoes from Gavin, despite her strong physical attraction to him--works as a fund-raiser for St. Benet's, where Darrow has played a crucial role in her psychic crash and spiritual recovery. As Gavin spirals into a breakdown, Carta finds herself increasingly connected to him--and to a dangerous underworld of sex and violence with links to her own past. As usual, plot improbabilities and long sections of spiritual musing are redeemed by Howatch's strongly drawn characters: if Carta can come across as brittle and prudish, Gavin's self-absorbed cant is continually entertaining, and supporting characters--such as the smoothly evil Asherton and tetchy but big-hearted ex-prostitute Susanne--round out the cast. Some readers may drop out during the final hundred pages (wherein Gavin recovers and finds the spiritual light), but this final book in the trilogy should satisfy fans who have been eagerly awaiting it.
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
July 25, 2005
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from The Heartbreaker by Susan Howatch
Godless Morality richard holloway I In 1990 I survived a life-crisis. In 1991 I wound up working for a good cause. But never did I foresee that in 1992 my vital companion during the next stage of my journey would be a prostitute. Let's face it, one doesn't normally connect prostitution with church fundraising.
1992 . . . It was that long-ago year when mobile phones still only operated through terrestrial links, that era of technological pre-history before the word "internet" began to ricochet in earnest around the square mile called the City which forms London's financial district. I had worked there once as a lawyer, but now I had opted for a different lifestyle.
This decision, which I never regretted, led to an invitation to reorganise the business affairs of a City church called St. Benet's-by-the-Wall. The people there had supported me following the collapse of my brief marriage and the loss of my job; in fact they had supported me through a time so horrific that I still shuddered to think of it, so when I found myself in a position to repay my debt to St. Benet's I seized the opportunity with both hands.
The opportunity arose when the office manager of the St. Benet's Healing Centre suddenly died and the Rector was faced with the task of finding someone with financial expertise who was prepared to work for a pittance. I volunteered to work for nothing, and during 1991 I reorganised the office. This inevitably led to a vision of the future in which expensive computers were needed, and once the subject of money arose, the idea of expansion soon surfaced. Immediately all eyes at St. Benet's swivelled to the derelict house across the road. The building, a rare City freehold zoned for residential use, was owned by the Church Commissioners, who had been hanging on to it in the forlorn hope that the property market would revive.
At that point the Rector moved fast. Having established that permission to change the use of the building would be forthcoming, he approached the Bishop for help, and the result was that the Church Commissioners agreed to lease the property at a moderate rent to the trustees of the St. Benet's Healing Centre on condition that they raised the money to rebuild the interior as offices. The idea was that the Healing Centre's administrative office would occupy the ground floor while the rest of the building could be leased to tenants who would pay our rent and cover the other running costs. In addition, removing the administrative office from the church would give us the chance to remodel the Healing Centre--another major expense.
"Wonderful!" said the Rector. "Now, how do we raise one and a half million pounds to cover all our costs?"
"Oh, that's peanuts!" I said without stopping to think. "Five or six million's routine in the fundraising game nowadays."
A minute later I had been appointed director of the St. Benet's Appeal and set squarely on the road that led to Richard Slaney and the seamiest of his many friends.
I first met Richard Slaney in 1989 when I began to work for the law firm Curtis, Towers. We were both partners, but while I laboured in the corporate tax department, he was involved with the private clients; he specialised in the making of wills and the administration of estates. Educated at Winchester and Oxford he had a wide circle of well-heeled, influential friends which made him a desirable contact for a fundraiser, and I decided to lose no time in seeking his advice.
I had no experience of fundraising, but I knew that at its most sophisticated level the buck-chaser was expected to combine high-grade diplomatic skills with the hide of a rhinoceros and the chutzpah of a street-trader. Because of the expense we decided against hiring a professional fundraiser to teach me the tricks of the trade, but unfortunately the more I told myself I could cope, the more stressed I began to feel, and soon I was wondering in panic if I had bitten off far more than I could chew.
Then I pulled myself together and called Richard at Curtis, Towers.
I met Richard for lunch at Hudson's, an oak-panelled City restaurant where the food was modernised Olde English and the wine list was first-class global. Richard was an oenophile with a weakness for high-calorie puddings. He had never succeeded in giving up smoking and as far as I knew he had never attempted to diet, so it was surprising he looked no more than twenty pounds overweight, but I remembered him telling me that he lived an active life on weekends at his country house in Hampshire. He had an elegant wife, a son reading law up at Oxford and a daughter studying for her A-levels at Cheltenham.
"Carta!" he exclaimed warmly, coming towards me with his hand outstretched. "How very nice to see you again!"