Determined to regain his son, who has joined a religious cult which has come to dominate his mind and soul, Allen Solomon, a medical research scientist, has arranged to have the young man, Shelley, kidnapped and brought to his summer cottage in the Catskills. Once there Shelley is turned over to the not-so-tender mercies of one Nicodemus Balthazar, a cynical, hard-drinking, grandiloquent, failed evangelist who, for a fee of $10,000, has promised to free Shelley from his dangerous obsession. Concerned about the illegality of his actions, Professor Solomon contacts his ex-wife, hoping that she will condone his tactics—but their meeting founders in dispute, and serves only to point up the tense, unhappy relationship which contributed to Shelley's alienation from his self-centered and overly ambitious parents. But the core of the action centers on the fascinating and often outrageous Balthazar, and the unorthodox procedures he employs in his tense battle for Shelley's spirit and soul. His ultimate, hard-won victory is a moment of shattering emotional impact, and a moving lesson about both the dogged resiliency—and fragility—of the human psyche.