Sunday, October 16, 2022

October Read: The Vicious Circle by Katherine St. John


Katherine St. John's The Siren  was a favorite read of mine last year, so I was excited to pick up her latest novel, The Vicious Circle. It definitely had a lot of pulse pounding moments, along with  scary cult vibes.

Sveta is a model who lives in NYC and is engaged to a wealthy young man. She struggles to fit into his family's ideal and their New Year's Eve ends with an argument and a decision by Sveta to take some time to rethink their life together.

Soon after this, Sveta learns her Uncle Paul has died, and left her his entire estate. This isn't just some small estate; it's worth $180 MILLION dollars. Paul was a well-known self-help guru who built a fortune on classes, retreats, books, and speaking tours. He also has a villa called Xanadu in the Mexican jungle, and that's where his funeral will take place. Sveta feels like she needs to travel to Xanadu to say her final farewell to her Uncle, but hoo boy, it's one weird place.

Sveta is joined on her trip by Lucas, a man she once had a memorable encounter with years before, but never heard from since. He's in charge of Paul's estate, and he's worried Paul's spiritual wife Kali is up to something. 

Once they're at Xanadu, it's pretty clear this is a cult and Kali is in charge. Not only that, she produces a will that leaves everything to her, not Sveta, and wants Sveta to sign off on a deal that gives Sveta a percent of the estate, but leaves the bulk to Kali. Conveniently, the helicopter that is supposed to pick up Sveta and Lucas the next day is mysteriously damaged and can't fly. All technology is locked up in a room where Kali has the only key; no privacy anywhere. As Sveta and Lucas start to dig around, they discover some unsettling practices and realize Kali is dangerous, and their lives are at stake. 

There's more to this, of course. It's a typical cult in that sex is always a big part of it, and giving up everything you have to join and ascend to a higher vibration. Sveta is torn between believing Kali (she's very persuasive) and believing Lucas, who has lied to her before. 

Will Sveta make the right choices and escape? Who is she going to trust? The last bit of the novel takes off and the action escalates; there are revelations all around about Paul, Sveta, Lucas, Kali, and the cult. 

I enjoyed the novel but wasn't blow away by it, as I was with The Siren. I guess the cult part felt like an old trope with nothing new to make it any different than other novels featuring cults--or heck, even the real ones we see on TV. Otherwise it was a good weekend read with no surprises I didn't see coming.

Rating: 3/6 for a novel that centered around a cult-what it was, how people got sucked into it, and how dangerous it was to break free. It's all about absolute power corrupting absolutely--and no one is safe from it. 

Available in hardcover, ebook and audio. 

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