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4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 13 January 2004
My summary says it all really. As in her previous post-conversion bestsellers, she bases it all on a first person character with serious problems, usually of the mental or spiritual sort, but with plenty of hair-raising physical and supernatural danger thrown in. Then we see them saved in some way and cheer them on to some kind of potentially happy ending. This time its a high class rent boy mixed up with the seriously nasty people we met in The High Flyer.
It's about the victory of the human spirit, sort of. For her this is symbolised by ball room dancing, of all things. Two immaculately dressed prostitutes doing a John Travolta type solo at the Savoy to applause. All highly improbable and a creaky sort of plot and cliches abound, but hey, who cares? It's so battily improbable its must be based on real events. I couldn't put it down. She lays a spell on you. She has the gift.
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on 6 February 2004
I found I could not put this book down. the pace is so fast, I was always reading on to find out what happened next. Yes, there are some awful things going on in the book, but Gavin needs to escape from these and that is the point of the story. Well done Susan!
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on 14 May 2004
This is another of Susan Howatch's gripping sagas which carrys you along with it. Many of the characters are familiar having featured in her other books about "St. Benets" in London. Of all her books though I found this was the most uncomfortable to read as the subject matter was unpleasant. This made no difference to the fact that it caught you up and carried you along with it from the very first chapter. Although it is a "stand alone" book the reader would find reading the previous one - High Flyer - very useful as it would explain the background to events.
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on 3 February 2005
Howatch is such an excellent storyteller that this book is as compelling as her others, but her theme is becoming repetitive.
Her six Starbridge novels all present different perspectives on the Church of England, but the three St Benet's novels (of which this is the third) all have essentially the same perspective on spiritual healing in the modern world. As a whole, the nine books have presented a fascinating and intelligent portrait inside a world relatively unfamiliar to most of us, but Howatch seems to have run out of things to say about it. So, instead of developing her theme, she has simply increasingly marginalised her characters. In this case a classy rent boy tries to escape his life among extreme sadists and controllers and finds - surprise surprise! - that doing so requires the healing of childhood wounds. Recognise anything, Howatch fans?
To enjoy these books you need an interest in the spiritual, and you need to be able to handle Howatch's way of describing spiritual matters by using layers of metaphor - a technique that won't appeal to everybody. If you are happy with these things, you may well find this book a page-turner - I did. Nevertheless, I ended it feeling slightly unsatisfied. Thanks for the enjoyable read, Ms Howatch - you still tell a story better than almost anybody. But I feel there are clear signs that it's time to move on.
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on 22 June 2007
Susan Howatch is a master at storytelling, but somehow her recent books are not up to par. Her blend of theology and Jungian analysis was really amazing in the Starbridge series and she has tried to do it again in the St. Benet trilogy, but it is not as deep and meaningful as it used to be. Maybe modern day stories is not her forte. Maybe speaking through clergymen gave her more freedom to express herself and her views. Who knows? Where is the Nicholas Darrow of Mystical Paths? It's as if he's another person entirely. In fact, these books seem to have been written by another person entirely, a Susan Howatch wannabe. I gave the book three stars, only because it was written by her and, to be honest, there are some rare glimpses of her old self in it. Is that enough? I sincerely doubt it. If you are new to the Susan Howatch experience, you might actually enjoy this book, but if you want to find out what she is really all about, you should get the Starbridge series or The Wheel Of Fortune, the last book from her saga period. And then you will be able to witness the Howatch magic.
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on 11 September 2004
Although it took a little while to get into this book it was worth it in the end. Once established the characters took over and moved the story along apace whilst the author cleverly continued to develop them as individuals. The book deals with aspects of life with which it is not always easy to empathise. Never the less it is set in real life and time and you never learn about anything by ignoring it. This was one of the most rewarding books that i have read for a long time, well written, entertaining and thought provoking. I would recommend it to anyone.
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on 2 February 2004
I struggled to finish this,overwhelmed by the gruesomely detailed sex scenes and the nauseating 'spirituality' that pervades the book. Perhaps it's because I'm not religious, but I found this left a bad taste in my mouth and no wish to read anything else by this author, ever, although I have enjoyed many of her earlier works. It has pace, but I found the characterisations unbelievable and the plot unlikely.
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on 12 June 2003
As always, Susan Howatch's latest novel is a page turner. It joins the Starbridge and companion St. Benets novels as books that are hastily read as the plot speeds along and then later reread for their thoughtful content. Ms. Howatch has a gift for interweaving her characters from book to book and this latest installment brings back several old favorites. It was especially pleasing to have Lewis return. He is a crusty, but endearing and intriguing character. While having the alternating voices of Gavin and Carta narrate the novel is not my favorite style, Ms. Howatch's prowess makes it work well. She has also challenged herself by having as one of the main characters a person who is not immediately endearing to the reader. While this is the conclusion of the St. Benet trilogy it can be read on its own as a novel without having read any of Howatch's other books. I can only hope that this gifted author is working on a book to inaugurate another exciting series.
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on 25 April 2003
This, the third book in this wonderful writer's series about the healing ministry of St Benets, City of London, is compulsively readable and much darker than anything she has penned before, but not completely satisfying. It offers glimpses of familiar characters from the past for avid Susan Howatch readers in a fascinating but frustratingly elliptical way. It is gripping, not to say terrifying. I admire the author for the amount of research and empathy into the life of a high class call boy, difficult as much of it is to stomach. Despite this, for me it is the least successful of this series. Old favourites tend to be neglected and the new characters are less interesting- especially the reformed Carta. Some of the religious thinking ascribed to the hero is a little overfamilar and mawkishly expressed.
But I still can't wait for the next one!
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on 22 April 2003
. As a fan of the Starbridge and St Benets novels I was both looking forward to the latest book , and sceptical that she could produce yet another high quality story. The heartbreaker is an excellent tale packed with good measures of pace , intrigue, scandal and love. Familiar characters are mixed with racy new ones.( I particularly liked 'the bloke'). I read it in two sittings and could hardly tear myself away. If you liked her previous books you will love this , but be aware that some of the content is harder and nastier than previous novels.
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