Successful London lawyer Carter Graham has power, sex appeal, and a well-ordered life. Everything has gone according to plan, including her recent marriage to Kim Betz, an investment banker with the right combination of looks and position. On the surface it appears to be a match made in heaven. The only problem is Kim's ex-wife. Sophie begins to follow Carter like a shadow, making outrageous claims about Kim's involvement in the occult.
Convincing herself that Sophie is mad, Carter moves ahead with her life. But something is amiss-and as Sophie's stories are corroborated by other unwelcome disclosures from Kim's past, Carter is thrown into a terrifying web of suspicion and betrayal, pushing her sanity to the edge. In desperation, Carter seeks help from Nicholas Darrow, the charismatic priest of St. Benet's Healing Center. Though a religious skeptic, Carter hopes to stem the tide of darkness that threatens to envelop her life-and begins a compelling journey into the very nature of good and evil, wisdom and redemption. . . .
Devoted readers of Howatch's Starbridge series (Glamorous Powers; Glittering Images; Absolute Truths) will be delighted to encounter recurring characters Nicholas Darrow and Lewis Hall in her new psychological-spiritual thriller. Darrow and Hall call upon their ecclesiastical, paranormal and New Age therapeutic expertise in healing damaged souls when success-driven London lawyer Carter Graham is suddenly confronted with phenomena that test the coping abilities of her liberated, modern mind. The quintessential "high flyer," Carter has broken through the glass ceiling and become a partner in the prestigious law firm of Curtis, Towers. Recently married to Kim Betz, a handsome banker almost 15 years her senior, Carter lives in the "right" apartment complex, drives a Porsche and is thinking of having a baby. However, Kim's hidden past (involvement with Nazis, the occult, group sex and an unsavory psychic healer named Mrs. Mayfield) threatens Carter's carefully orchestrated life plan. The mysterious death of Kim's ex-wife and the vision of her ghost send Carter to the edge of sanity and force her to confront demons from her past that she has successfully avoided until now. Two-thirds into the book, the pace of the narrative slows down so the spiritual experts can expound their modern dogma, but it soon hurtles the reader toward a tepid conclusion. In spite of these lulls, the work is entertaining and intellectually stimulating, providing copious amounts of information supporting links between ESP, psychology and modern religious thought. (July) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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November 26, 2001
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Excerpt from The High Flyer by Susan Howatch
Flirting with the Enemy
There is no shortage of highly individualised beliefs. In fact I am constantly amazed at what people do believe; half-remembered bible stories, odd bits of science fiction, snippets of proverbial wisdom passed on through grandmothers or glossy magazines. *** We are bombarded with different beliefs, different values, different customs, different interpretations. Experts give us different and incompatible analyses. We are faced with a kaleidoscope of different images. And the overall effect, I suggest, is to reduce all differences to the same level, to make us immune to real distinctions, to imply that the most we can hope for is not truth but mere opinion.
Confessions of a Conservative Liberal
A helpful exercise is to ask ourselves what our main life-shaping desires are. What do we most want to do and be? What are the priorities we feel most deeply about?
david f. ford
The Shape of Living
When I first saw my temporary secretary it never occurred to me to flirt with him. Even in 1990, when suing for sexual harassment was still considered to be primarily an American activity, an office flirtation would have been considered unwise for a high flyer, and besides, this particular male hardly struck me as being irresistible. He had curly hair, chocolate-coloured eyes and a chunky, cherubic look. My taste in men has never encompassed overgrown choirboys.
Walking into my office I found him stooped over my computer, and since I was not expecting a male secretary I assumed he was someone from the maintenance department. I did notice that he was dressed as an office drone in a grey suit, drab tie and white shirt, but maintenance men often resembled office drones these days; it was a side-effect of the technological revolution.
Abruptly I demanded: "What's the problem?" and added for good measure: "Who the hell are you?" I always feel irritable on Monday mornings.
He glanced up, decided I was just another dumb blonde hired to massage a keyboard and made the big mistake of adopting a patronising manner. "Relax, sweet pea," he said casually, "I'm the temp from PersonPower International! I've been assigned for two weeks to Mr. Carter Graham."
I dropped my bag on the visitor's chair, folded my arms across my chest and dug my high heels into the carpet. Then I said in a voice designed to bend nails: "I'm Carter Graham."
The man jumped as if stung by a bee, and as his head jerked up I realised that his square jaw was incompatible with the choirboy image. "I beg your pardon, ma'am," he said at once. "I must have misunderstood the lady in personnel who directed me here."
"The lady in personnel must be suffering from amnesia. She knows I only work with female temps."
"I'm sorry to hear that, ma'am, but let me reassure you by saying--"
"No, but I can do everything women and gays can do with computers, and I've even taken a course in DTP."
I saw no reason to put up a front by pretending to know what this latest technological time-waster was. "DTP?"
"Desk-Top Publishing, ma'am."
"I don't approve of dubious activities taking place on a desk-top. Are you seriously--seriously--trying to tell me that PersonPower International have had the nerve to send a heterosexual white Anglo-Saxon male to work in my office?"
"Maybe they see it as their contribution to multiculturalism, ma'am."
Worried about my ability to keep a straight face I turned aside, tramped to the window and stared at the crowded street four floors below. Only after I had carefully counted to ten did I swing back to face him and say: "All right, so be it. Welcome to Curtis, Towers."
"Thank you, ma'am."
"But now you listen to me, and you listen well. This is a first-names office but you and I are going to use surnames for the duration of your time here. I'm not having all those hormones and pheromones stimulated by any pseuds'-corner office intimacy."
"In that case would you care to be addressed as Miss Graham, Mrs. Graham or Ms. Graham?"
"Well, I certainly didn't go through a wedding ceremony only to be called 'Miss' at the end of it, and I'm not Mrs. Graham, I'm Mrs. Betz. But my marital status is hardly your concern."
"Right, Ms. Graham."
"And your name is--"
"Okay, Tucker, get me unsugared coffee, black as pitch and strong enough to make an elephant levitate. Then we'll start to flay the fax till it screams for mercy."
He never asked where the coffee machine was or where he could make coffee or whether he would be able to obtain a takeaway from the cafeteria. He just responded smartly: "Yes, ma'am," and zipped out of the room. That impressed me. But I also heard the note of amusement in his voice and knew I was not the only one who had played the scene poker-faced but tongue-in-cheek. That alarmed me. Sharing the same sense of humour can be a snare in an office setting. Humour leads to intimacy which leads to loss of detachment which leads to bad judgement which leads to a mess. I resolved to be on my guard.