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'Some three months after returning to England, and having at last completed that collection of material that, once assembled in a book, must serve to transform a respectable career into a monument -something so comprehensive and final, this was my plan, as to be utterly irreftuable - I received, while standing as chance would have it at the reception desk of the Rembrandt Hotel, Knightsbridge, the phonecal that informed me of my son's suicide.' So unfolds the opening sentence of Tim Park's tenth vel. But why, on receiving this terrible news, does Christopher Burton immediately decide that he must leave his Italian wife of almost thirty years standing? Why does he find it so difficult to focus on his grief for his son? Burton feels his pious, raffish and mercurial wife gave him his life in Italy and his career as the foremost journalist on Italian affairs. But surely she ia also the person who has made life impossible for him. Was their son somehow a victim of their explosive love and hate? Or is that thought simply the expression of a deep paraia?