"Dimiter," William Peter Blatty; Forge, 304 pages.
I've adored the novelist William Peter Blatty since I was a preteen; 1971's "The Exorcist" (which I probably shouldn't have read at age 10, but did) turned me into a lifelong horror fan, and I was also quite taken with 1978's "The Ninth Configuration" and 1983's "Legion," a sequel to "The Exorcist."
So, I pounced on Blatty's latest, "Dimiter," when it arrived, gleefully anticipating a few nights of shuddery, look-over-my-shoulder thrills. And shudder I did, but not in the way Blatty would have wanted; mine were frissons of loathing, not fear.
There was no "I'm so scared, I want my mommy!" moment in reading this book. More like, "I'm so confused. Hey, Mom -- or anyone -- could you explain this to me?"
I actually read the thing twice, hoping that a second perusal would bring clarity to the murk. But no, "Dimiter" requires a stronger mental squeegee than I possess.
So, what's "Dimiter" about? It's set in early 1970s Albania and Jerusalem, and it might -- and let's emphasize that word, because truly, I'm still not sure -- be about the religious conversion of an American spy named Paul Dimiter, who gets tortured in 1973 in Albania and then may or may not turn up dead, in Christ's alleged tomb no less, in 1974 Jerusalem.
It all might be a modern-day take on the book of Acts, which is quoted in "Dimiter."
On a positive note, Blatty's writing contains much grace and beauty.
But as lovely as the writing often is, it's a blank, bland beauty that never engages. And with literature, beauty that's so cold, so impenetrable, just leaves the reader -- at least this one -- feeling not bewitched or bothered, but unquestionably bewildered.