Straub’s story revolves around a group of college friends, whom during the turbulence of the sixties engaged in an occult ritual. The Ritual led by a nomadic charlatan-guru named Mallon, who insinuates himself into the group of teenagers. This ritual results in the death of one student and effects the rest of the group in subtle ways, such as blinding one member over a period of years.
The story is initially told from the perspective of Lee, a successful author who abstained from taking part in the ritual that his now wife and friends participated in. His wife who has refused to speak of the event to him leaves town to attend a meeting and Lee decides to investigate. He reaches out to first one friend and then others, slowly piecing together the events of that day. Through the friends we are given a different perspective with each narrative and each story of course revealing something of the witness.
The writing is good and parts of the story are terrifying from a human aspect. At some points Straub describes events so viscerally you find yourself taken back. However it becomes repetitive as we re-visit the day in question, we are of course forced to wade through so much detail. The story feels like it is on constant state of building up tension only to disappoint us with an ending that does not seem to resolve any of the questions. However credit where credit is due, the characters are excellently written and he does manage to keep the suspense and curiosity alive throughout the book.