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The Vicious Circle    by Katherine St. John order for
Vicious Circle
by Katherine St. John
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2022 (2022)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Katherine St. John's The Vicious Circle is an exotic cult thriller set deep in the Mexican jungle. It opens on ex-model Sveta Bentzen, traveling by canoe with attorney Lucas Baranquilla to her uncle's palatial estate and wellness center, Xanadu. Her uncle, self-help guru Paul Bentzen (known to his millions of followers as Shiva) was partnered with Kali.

Now Shiva is dead and surprisingly left his entire estate to Sveta (who has seen him only once since she was a child), not to Kali - why? Shiva had retired from public life to Xanadu after an accusation of rape. Sveta is engaged to wealthy Chase, but his family disapproves and he caves to them often. They fought just before she left for Xanadu.

Lucas (with whom Sveta has some history) and she have to share the guest room. Their bags are taken away and they're given white clothing to fit their 'woo-woo spiritual' surroundings. Kali, who has a full-grown pet jaguar, now leads the community. They're given herbal aphrodisiac teas. It's supposed to be only a brief visit for the funeral, but there are delays.

Kali presents a new will and warns Sveta against Lucas. It becomes clear that Kali leads a cult - why do many of its members have scars on their backs? Sveta wonders if her uncle's death was a natural one. She and Lucas decide they need to get out - but can she trust him? The tension and violence escalate to an action-packed conclusion.

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