The Light of Day (2003), Graham Swift’s last outing, was a singularly unhappy book. The unhappiness derived from several sources: drab subject matter, drab treatment, but most of all the feeling of an author weighed down and made almost wretched by the very act of composition. Seven years in the writing, the novel seemed to have had all the meat stripped from its bones by the endless process of revision to which it had clearly been subjected. Although narrated by a private detective, and involving marital strife and homicide, it had no mystery, as both crime and criminal were identified almost from the start. Worse, the trick Swift had pulled off so successfully in the Booker-winning Last Orders (1996) – assembling fragment upon fragment of ‘ordinary’ speech and extracting a genuine poetry from the result – now seemed beyond him. The narrative voice in The Light of Day was simply flat, and when it stopped being flat it was because Swift had beautified it to the point where it could no longer be associated with its narrator.