Picks and Pans Review: Under the Beetle's Cellar

updated 10/23/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/23/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Mary Willis Walker

Page Turner Of The Week

THERE MUST BE A SPECIAL PLACE IN hell for people like Samuel Mordecai. But for now the self-proclaimed prophet and his fanatic followers are holed up outside Austin—along with the 11 schoolchildren and bus driver they have been holding, buried under their heavily fortified compound for 46 days. As the clock ticks toward the apocalypse that Mordecai has been threatening, negotiators are losing hope of getting the hostages out alive.

Enter Molly Cates, the gutsy reporter memorably introduced in Walker's last mystery, The Red Scream. Digging into Mordecai's past may yield a rescue plan—if Cates and the bus driver, Walter Demming, a haunted Vietnam vet, are willing to put their lives on the line. It's hard to stomach some of the scenes in this wrenching story, and even more difficult to put this gripping novel down. (Doubleday, $22.50)

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