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Full of provocative moral reflections, this kickoff to bestseller Rice's new Songs of the Seraphim religious romance series centers on hired assassin Toby O'Dare, a one-time aspirant to the priesthood until personal tragedy unmoored his life. Guardian angel Malchiah visits Toby, who's just consummated his latest kill, and offers him redemption for his sins. After accepting the offer, Toby is whisked away to 13th-century England, where, in the guise of a Dominican friar, he becomes the protector of a Jewish couple accused wrongly by the gentile populace of having murdered their young daughter for her conversion to Christianity. Two eloquently told if clunkily joined digressions give the backstory on Toby and on the persecution of the Jews in medieval Europe. Readers will revel in Rice's colorful recreation of the historical past and in her moving depiction of characters struggling to reconcile matters of the heart with their personal sense of faith. 250,000 first printing.