Robert Edric is one of our most prolific contemporary novelists. Besides his recent trilogy of crime novels set in Hull, this is his fourteenth novel; the last two have been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. His work is serious but highly readable. Moral confusions animate it, often in the context of a collapsed society or one on the brink of collapse. His historical backgrounds range widely: the Arctic of the 1845 Franklin Expedition (Broken Lands, 1992); Conrad’s Congo (The Book of the Heathen, 2000); Tasmania in 1864 (Elysium, 1995); the First World War (In Desolate Heaven, 1997). They are vividly portrayed, with a lightness of touch that makes one hesitate to call them historical novels. No detail is there just for period flavour.