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(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Kathleen Leary Donahue is a member of a prominent Chicago political family who seems to have everything. As with a number of Greeley's female protagonists, she is in her forties, but as "sleek and lean" as she was in her adolescence, with "splashes of silver streaking her otherwise flaming red hair." She is pursuing a Ph.D. in history, but despite her intelligence and her apparent life of luxury, she is trapped in an abusive and unhappy marriage. Kathleen fits the psychological profile of a battered woman, staying in her marriage out of fear until her survival instincts finally take over and she throws her husband out. Kathleen functions to demonstrate that battered women know neither class boundaries nor IQ curves.

Kieran O'Kerrigan, Kathleen's childhood love, is a psychiatrist who has returned to Chicago after a twenty-year absence. Because he is a psychiatrist (a favorite choice of a profession for Greeley's characters), he can serve several functions in the novel. Within the first few pages, he has figured out that Kathleen is a battered wife and that her husband has been unfaithful to her. He is able through consultation with his trainer psychologist to understand how to best help her. Kieran serves the primary function of putting psychological background information on pedophilia and satanic cults into the story form in a way in which it can be understood by lay readers.

Kathleen's brother, Bishop James Leary, serves to represent a well-intentioned but ignorant Catholic Church. Unlike Kieran, James cannot read the signs in Kathleen's troubled marriage, and he blames her for her husband's urge to wander. He likewise cannot see that pedophile priests are a danger for the...

(The entire section is 424 words.)