A Greek academy in Palestine is missing. Callimachus of Athens, the school’s patron, sends his servant, Tallis, to investigate. The locals are reluctant to talk, but eventually Tallis learns the abandonment is somehow linked to a Dionysian cult. Tallis hates the Dionysians, who were responsible for his brother’s horrible death. Then he learns the equally horrible fates of some of the academy teachers: murder, suicide, and madness. As Tallis tries to find answers and help two teachers-turned-madmen, he comes to the edge of madness himself.
Groot did thorough research, and creates an extremely convincing back-story for the New Testament account of the Gerasene demoniacs. The publisher is promoting it as a Christian novel, but it fits other genres: mystery (why did the school disband?), supernatural thriller (demonic possession), psychological thriller (can Tallis solve the mystery and stay sane himself?), and a straightforward historical novel about 1st century Palestine. I usually don’t care for horror, and the cover art would have made me bypass it in a shop or library. Luckily, reviewing for the HNS opens one’s mind. Tallis and the secondary characters are extremely well-drawn, and I finished it wanting to know more about them. That’s my measure of a superior book.