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Death of an Adept

Reviewed: March 14, 2003
By: Katherine Kurtz & Deborah Turner Harris
Publisher: Ace Books
435 pages, $8.50

Some books come to you when thereís something in them that you need to read, when thereís a message that will speak to you. Iíll get to that later, but I mention it up front just to let you know itís coming.

Death of an Adept is essentially a supernatural thriller showcasing the conflict between good and evil, the fifth book in adventures of Dr. Adam Sinclair and the group of psychic/mystic adventurers who are known as the Hunting Lodge. Sinclair is a Scottish lord and eminent psychiatrist whose medical colleagues would no doubt be surprised to discover that he has an active sideline. Sinclair and his team battle those things in heaven and earth that are beyond the everyday philosophy of most people, forces that seek to corrupt the natural order of the universe for their own ends.

Sinclair is a mystic adept, one of those special people who can trace the essence of his spirit and personality back through a number of past lives. Such persons as he are reincarnated throughout history to serve as warriors in the cosmic struggle.

Among his aides he numbers many talented individuals. Noel McLeod is a detective chief inspector of police, a matter of fact fellow with a keen investigative mind who just happens to be able to channel the spirits of the dead, a handy talent to have when investigating murders. Peregrine Lovat is a highly sought after portrait artist whose brushes and pens also enable him to capture details from the emanations remaining behind at crime scenes. New to the team this time out is the barrister and former SAS pilot Harry Nimmo, who is unsettled in this novel to discover that he can experience vivid visions about past events simply by touching objects related to them.

These three, and some others, are moved to action by the strange events surrounding the ritual slaughter of a black bull within an ancient stone circle on an island of the Outer Hebrides. What appears at first to be† a quirky case of animal abuse soon turns out to be much more.

Sinclair is not initially involved in this investigation, since he is out of the country attending a medical symposium in Houston. He had jumped at the chance to take the trip to America as a guest lecturer in order to be closer to Dr. Ximena Lockhart, a medical doctor with whom he had formed a strong bond when she was his physician in a earlier book. In fact, he intends to spend most of the Christmas holiday season with her, and to propose, if he can find the right timing.

This is where we come back to my opening comments. Ximena is in San Francisco to attend to her dying father, who has been suffering a long decline. This adventure novel is intelligent enough to take that whole business seriously, and not just use it as window dressing. Adam and Ximena have a number of long and serious discussions about the nature of pain and suffering in the world, deliberations which lead to the discovery that satisfying their own need to be together will also satisfy her fatherís need to see her settled before he can let go of his pain and pass on.

There are some very tender scenes in these sections of the novel, particularly when one is travelling across the country to visit oneís sick mother, as I was this week when I read the book. There were times when I felt as if the story was speaking right to my situation.

The ungodly in this story are a group of black adepts who hope to harness the power of the ancient storm god, Taranis. The head of this cabal, a man known as Raeburn, has several goals. One is to get revenge on the Hunting Lodge, which had thwarted his plans in the past. A second is to use this power to manipulate events on the world stage so that his agents might be insinuated into positions of authority and influence.

Thwarting this black scheme becomes much more difficult for the members of the Lodge when Adam himself is captured by Raeburn and prepared to be the sacrifice in the final devilish ritual needed to access the power.

I have written in the past that this series is very much in the spirit of the occult novels of WW II era writers such as Charles Williams and Dennis Wheatley. Thatís a high recommendation and I see no reason to change it with this book. Itís been a few years since it was first published in the late 1990s, but I see by the book lists and the online services that it, as well as the other novels in the series, is still in print.

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