The Heartbreaker, by Susan Howatch

The third of a trilogy of books about characters in London who have problems sorted out at St Benet's, a church which has a Christian healing ministry; the trilogy follows, and includes characters from, six other books based on church characters in the cathedral town of "Starbridge".

This is written in the same style as all the other books: the story is told in the first person, in this case alternating between two of the characters. As in all the other books, Howatch tries to keep you turning the pages, with sudden switches of fortune and cliffhanger endings at the end of every chapter, e.g. from page 425:

'This is the start of my new life!' I yell, bounding out of bed and flinging back the curtains. 'I'm going to get married, buy a boat and live happily ever after!'

An hour later I'm having a complete nervous breakdown.

This story focuses on Gavin, a male prostitute, who has to come to terms with the fact that his lavish and glamorous lifestyle isn't as truly satisfying as he'd like to believe. Gavin is mixed up with a group of characters who are into some very seedy business, led by the same woman who caused problems for Carta, the "high flyer" from one of the previous books. His meeting with Carta is the trigger for a series of dramatic events for both of them.

I didn't feel gripped by this book as I had by the previous ones. This is partly because it seems like much the same story as the last one, with someone who's fiercely anti-religion being forced to accept that God wants them to change. As such, Gavin's character in this book seemed to be the same as Carta's in the previous one (from what I remember). But also the plot strains credulity, and so because I didn't believe what was happening, it was hard to feel involved with the characters.

It's good that Howatch is writing stories where Christianity is accepted as being perfectly sensible and able to change lives, but I think that two books about "St Benet's" would have been enough. Be interesting to see what she does next.

Completed : 01-Feb-2004

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