The Heartbreaker (by Susan Howatch)

At last, the new novel by Susan Howatch, much awaited by her fans, was published in paperback! I re-read the entire series - Starbridge and St Benet's - in advance, to remind myself of the plots and people, before finally embarking on the new book.

'The Heartbreaker' is quite a shocking book, very different from the more staid Starbridge series about Church of England clergymen in the early and mid 20th centuries. Oh, there are some from earlier novels who appear in this, but the main character is a newcomer: Gavin. Moreover, he's not a cook (like Alice from A Question of Integrity) or even a business expert (like Carter in The High Flyer). No, Gavin is - of all things - a male prostitute.

Moreover, Gavin isn't particularly likeable, either. He's arrogant, sex-obsessed, and seems to have little concept of other people as anything other than 'meat'. Still, underneath this unpleasant veneer, Gavin is a mass of insecurities, struggling with a deeply fragmented personality.

Gavin meets Carta Graham - Carter from 'The Higher Flyer', who has changed the spelling of her name to become more feminine. She is now workign as fundraiser for St Benet's. The book is told alternately from Gavin and Carta's very different viewpoints.

It's very suspenseful, rather sleazy (though never overtly explicit), and horrific in places. Yet somehow I found it gripping, and very exciting. It's extremely well-written, as all Susan Howatch's books are, and the conclusion made a good ending to the St Benet's trilogy.

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