If you’re looking for a mesmerizing, quirky mystery — with plenty of I-didn’t-see-that-coming moments, you’ve got to read The Prophet of Marathon. It’s full of totally believable characters that you’ll either love or hate. And, the funny thing is — your opinions will likely swing wildly as the book unfolds.
Chief among your emotional targets will be the protagonist, a rudderless, thirty-year-old man who seems intent on perpetuating his listless, directionless life as a part-time gambler and full-time whiner.
James Bennett is the son of a well-heeled, successful and very wealthy New York City banker. His privileged upbringing has been one long series of struggles against authority — particularly his father, who simply wants him to get — and keep — a real job.
When he gets involved with a defrocked minister, he warms to the older man’s initially paternal direction and interest. Indeed, it seems for awhile that he’s finally found his niche, helping John Wainwright establish a small church in Marathon, Florida.
But, when he couriers $30,000 back to the reverend from a doughy older man, then discovers that the man has apparently bought a teenaged girl — deeply influenced by Wainwright — as a bride, he begins digging deeper into Wainwright’s dubious dealings.
Bennett, ever the hapless dupe, flies to Las Vegas at Wainwright’s request to foster a reconciliation between the minister and his estranged daughter. He finds her, all right — she’s a stripper at a tony Vegas gentlemen’s club.
From there, the story dips and twists through a series of plot developments that will first have you rooting for James, then slapping your forehead at his incredible, self-absorbed naivete. Yet the narrative nevertheless firmly holds your interest, wondering if Wainwright will ever get his comeuppance.
I rarely say that I couldn’t put a book down, but this was certainly the case with this well-written, meticulously crafted novel. The lead character, James Bennett, stays doggedly in character almost to the end, even managing to achieve a certain grudging acceptance from his father.
But, does Wainwright ever get what should be coming to him, after decades of ministerial malfeasance and manipulation? Read this novel right through to the end, and find out.
Five stars to The Prophet of Marathon. It’s a gem that showcases the power of excellent, consistent character development and its ultimate contribution to a story well-told.