Books: Heretic Fringe

A rich novel of faith and folly in the Dark Ages

One is tempted to distrust Charmaine Craig. Harvard educated, an actress (remember White Fang II?) with runway-model looks, she could almost have been genetically engineered by the publicist for The Good Men (Riverhead Books; 399 pages; $24.95), her ambitious first novel about an outbreak of heresy in medieval France. But one would be wrong not to trust her, because as a writer she's the real deal. And as it happens, her work has much to say about both temptation and distrust.

The action takes place in Montaillou, a tiny mountain village that is falling under the influence of saintly wanderers known...

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