Three years before The Wonder Worker was released, in the afterword of the sixth installment in her Starbridge set of ecclesiastical novels, Susan Howatch dashed her fans' dreams. Absolute Truths was to be her last intellectual surplice-ripper. Did this mean we would be left forever wondering whether megacharismatic Nicholas Darrow would find a way to meld his psychic talents and his religious calling? What about his sidekick and mentor, Lewis Hall--would he ever manage to control his substantial earthly appetites? And what of gifted substance-abuser Venetia Hoffenberg? Would she be forever denied the literary chance to just say no? Luckily for us, all three are back in Howatch's latest, serious sacerdotal romp. But The Wonder Worker plays out nowhere near Starbridge's great cathedral and is not even indirectly about Anglican power struggles or traditions. It is set instead in St. Benet's-by-the-Wall, a small church and healing center in London's inner city. The book does, however, feature all of the author's strengths: vivid characterization, scenes of flamboyant and unorthodox religious power, and emotionally exhilarating personal encounters. Nicholas Darrow is back, not as chief narrator, but seen through three sets of eyes: those of Alice, a young woman who seems to see him more clearly than anyone save his mentor; Lewis; and his disillusioned wife, Rosalind. Nicholas's own viewpoint reveals his life and job as healer extraordinaire swinging out of control. In addition to the pleasures of the multiple viewpoints, there are the usual (i.e. unusual) pleasures of watching Howatch make the spiritual flesh. Though she has often been compared to Anthony Trollope, one astute reviewer has termed her "the love child of Graham Greene and Iris Murdoch." Other writers might approach her talent, but few would dare follow up a scene in which Nicholas hypnotizes his wife into sex with an even more exciting one in which he is called to order by his spiritual adviser, a nun!