IT IS EVIDENT from her first two novels that Susanna Jones has a penchant for subversion. Not only does she use her characters to explore the dynamics of subversive behaviour, she also subverts the notion of genre fiction and - along with it - the expectations of readers. Is she a crime writer, a mystery writer, or a 'literary' novelist? The range of prizes (see interview opposite) she won for her debut, The Earthquake Bird, suggests that she straddles the divide between mainstream and genre fiction, and her new novel is in the same mould. I was a judge on last year's Betty Trask Awards and, while Hari Kunzru and Rachel Seiffert were the main contenders for the top prize, Jones's writing earned rich praise during the deliberations. Her lean but lyrical prose, her evocation of place and atmosphere, the subtle undercurrent of menace and a page-turning storyline were all recognised. Comparisons with Lesley Glaister, Barbara Vine and Helen Dunmore spring to mind, although Jones is too original, too unusual in her sensibilities, to be easily or usefully pigeon-holed.
Her boldest risk, perhaps, is to give her work the guise of a genre - the psychological thriller, I would say - in which convention requires us to be able to root for the main protagonist ... and then offer us no such hero. In her previous book, this militated