Sha Shewakar
  • 3.5/5
[contains spoilers]

Mary Gibson, a young woman at Highcliffe Academy, a Catholic boarding school, learns that her older sister and only relative, Jacqueline, has gone missing and has not paid Mary's tuition in months. The school officials tell Mary she can remain enrolled only if she works for the school. Mary decides to leave school to find her sister, who owns La Sagesse, a cosmetics company in New York City.

Upon arriving in New York, Mary finds that Jacqueline sold her cosmetics business eight months earlier. Jacqueline's close friend and former employee, Frances Fallon, claims to have seen Jacqueline the week before, and suggests that Mary visit Dante's, an Italian restaurant in Greenwich Village. Mary locates the restaurant, and discovers that Jacqueline has rented a room above the store, without having moved in. Mary convinces the owners to let her see the room, which she finds empty aside from a wooden chair and above it a noose hanging from the ceiling. This makes Mary more anxious and determined to find her sister.

Mary's investigation leads her to several individuals who knew Jacqueline, including her secret husband, attorney Gregory Ward, and a psychiatrist, Dr. Louis Judd. Mary learns Jacqueline had been a patient of Judd's, seeking treatment for depression stemming from her membership in a Satanic cult called the Palladists. Jacqueline was lured into joining the cult by her former co-workers at La Sagesse, particularly Esther Redi, who has since taken over the company in Jacqueline's absence. Mary enlists a private detective, Irving August, to help locate Jacqueline. When Mary accompanies him to the La Sagesse headquarters after hours, Irving is stabbed to death by an unseen assailant. Mary flees into the subway, where she witnesses two formally-dressed men enter her car, carrying Irving's corpse between them. She attempts to alert police, but the men vanish with Irving's body before they arrive.

Judd approaches Mary, and offers to bring her to visit Jacqueline at his residence, where she has been in hiding. There, Mary is briefly met by Jacqueline, who gestures her to be quiet before again vanishing. Determined to remain in New York, Mary takes a job at a kindergarten, and develops a romance with Jason Hoag, a poet. Some time later, Esther breaks into Mary's apartment and confronts her in the shower, claiming that Jacqueline murdered Irving and urges Mary to return to Highcliffe. Mary heeds Esther's warning, and informs both Gregory and Jason, who resolve to locate Jacqueline and have her surrender herself to police for Irving's murder. They unite with Judd, who takes them to meet Jacqueline. Jacqueline recounts how she came to join the Palladists, as well as how she inadvertently killed Irving, believing him to be one of them.

The Palladists congregate—Frances among them—and contemplate how to kill Jacqueline in retaliation for her revealing the organization to Judd. She would be the seventh person so condemned since the founding of the cult. Frances, who has a profound attachment to Jacqueline, begs the cult members to spare her. The cultists kidnap Jacqueline, but, squeamish about committing acts of violence, decide that she should kill herself, as she has long been suicidal anyway. They offer her a cup of poison. When she refuses to drink it, they let her leave, but send an assassin to follow her. The assassin chases her through the streets with a switchblade, but she eludes him and returns to her apartment above Dante's. Simultaneously, Jason and Judd confront the Palladists, condemning them for their dedication to evil, and recite the Lord's Prayer in response to Mr. Brun, a high-ranking member of the cult, boasting with a nihilistic philosophical explanation for their doctrine.

In her apartment hallway, Jacqueline briefly encounters her neighbor, Mimi, a young woman who is terminally ill. Mimi confesses to Jacqueline that she is afraid to die, and plans to have one last night out on the town. Jacqueline enters her own apartment and hangs herself. The thud of the chair falling over is heard, but Mimi does not recognize the sound as she leaves for the evening.