Elias Pudd, the archfiend in Connolly's masterful third suspense novel (following Every Dead Thing and Dark Hollow) finds such grizzly uses for spiders of all, er, stripes that he makes that dastardly villain Hannibal Lecter seem like Little Lord Fauntleroy. Pudd, however, is just one in a splendidly drawn cast that propels this gripping, intricately plotted tale. When a road crew in northern Maine accidentally unearths a grave site, the bodies turn out to be members of the Aroostook Baptists, a cultlike religious group whose members disappeared in the 1960s. Meanwhile, private investigator Charlie Parker (from the earlier novels) is hired to investigate the suspicious suicide of Grace Peltier, who was working on a graduate thesis concerning-guess what?-the Aroostook Baptists. Further muddying the waters is the Fellowship, a group led by the supremely unctuous Carter Paragon (nee Chester Quincy Deedes, "the name on his birth certificate and his criminal record"), which turns out to be far more sinister than anyone realized. From Connolly's opening words-"This is a honeycomb world. It hides a hollow heart"-it's clear that this is no ordinary thriller; indeed, his random musings on the manifestations of evil, coupled with Parker's visions and flashbacks, lend the book a dark, intriguing overlay. Lest things become too intense, however, the author's wry sense of humor easily lightens the situation, often harking back to earlier noir writers: "she had the kind of body that caused highway pileups after Sunday services." In his novel's acknowledgments, Connolly modestly writes, "As each novel progresses, the depths of my ignorance become more and more apparent." Also becoming more apparent are the depths of this author's psychological acumen, literary skills and prodigious creativity.