Publishers Weekly, 1987-08-21 Images of death, decay and putrefaction, of violence, sexual perversion and thwarted escape permeate this stunning second novel, a psychological thriller by the Australian author of Lillian's Story. In a cloud of suppressed hostility, the narrator, Louise, and her professor husband Rennie come from London to Tuscany, where they are to spend the summer in a villa loaned to them by Rennie's colleague Daniel. The house turns out to be in a dangerous state of disrepair, infested by mice and threatened by the inroads of predatory nature. ``The final collapse was only a matter of time,'' Louise says, but she is also talking about her marriage. When Daniel arrives unexpectedly to join his obnoxious, aloof children Viola and Hugo in his other villa next door, Louise's suspicions about her husband and Daniel's relationship are aroused. An almost palpable air of sexual tension, underscored by menace and mystery, suffuses the taut narrative. Grenville's ability to create surcharged imagery seems limitless: a lobster thrust in boiling water seems ``to take hours to die . . . its shriek floating up in the steam''; a woman's face ``had the grey papery quality of something incurable''; hundreds of clocks all ``tick . . . away together, each one a mass of jittering wheels beneath the bland face''; a kitchen is stocked with ``smiling curved'' knives . . . ``with a nick in each blade like a shark's mouth.'' The seething tension seems to demand a more explosive resolution than Grenville provides, but the gothic atmosphere she so deftly manipulates makes this a gripping tale. (October 2)
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