Roswell Clark's life had arrived at the point when he felt he needed to get an optimistic-looking bat tattoo on his shoulder. His ideal bat image was featured on an 18th century bowl in the Victoria and Albert Museum, but strangely, on a visit to the museum, he encountered a woman called Sarah Varley, who was clearly compelled by the same bat. What did it mean? Sarah dealt in antiques and Roswell soon ran into her stalls in Chelsea and Covent Garden. His calling, which grew out of an obsession with crash-test dummies, was a bit harder to explain. It led from the invention of a popular children's toy to lucrative commissions from a Parisian sybarite for wooden working models with very adult moving parts. Both Roswell and Sarah had lost their spouses and were still grieving in their different ways. And then Christ started putting a hand in - not in the 'born again' sense, but literally - a hand, a fragment of an ancient crucifix that fetched up in one of Sarah's antique lots. Between some compulsion conveyed by this hand and Sarah's natural urge to make improvements in people, Roswell's work took a surprising new turn. Russell Hoban's delicious new novel combines much about art - traditional and conceptual - with new angles on Christ, crash-test dummies, antiques and pornography - a pleasure on every page and as mysterious and uplifting as bat wings.