Picks and Pans Review: Golgotha Falls

updated 09/03/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/03/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Frank De Felitta

De Felitta has done it. He has written an even worse chiller than his earlier best-sellers, The Entity and Audrey Rose. It is set in a dying town in a haunted Massachusetts valley where Satan has taken over the Church of Eternal Sorrows. Priests go crazy and commit foul acts. Then Mario Gilbert and Anita Wagner, a couple of sexy investigators of the paranormal from Harvard, move into the church with tons of elaborate equipment—just as a young Jesuit comes to perform an exorcism. Mario gets an image of Christ on tape and rushes back to Harvard to prove he's a genius. The devil is at work, however, and the assembled scientists and newsmen at Mario's press conference see not the miracle image, but lewd pictures of Anita instead. Mario is put in a mental hospital. Then the Pope comes to help the young Jesuit. Flowers bloom in the desolate valley, and a huge cloud in the shape of a cross floats over. Even the TV newsmen fall down on their knees to pray. (This must be a miracle.) It's impossible to care about any of these characters—they are cartoon figures, acting out a totally irrational series of disjointed scenes. Both the Catholic Church and Harvard University appear to be staffed by nothing but mean-spirited, glory-grabbing incompetents. (Well, maybe the Pope is a nice guy; when his mother in Sicily drowns while trying to save a lamb, he goes home "and prays loudly and deeply.") The confused reader is left wondering how the author managed to convince any publisher that this chaotic mess ought to be in print. (Simon and Schuster, $15.95)

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