Dunmore follows the sure-handed Talking to the Dead (1997) with a complex and resonant portrait of a woman's bruising confrontation with her past. At age 18, Simone had an autumn romance with Michael, a Vietnam vet who was tender when not preoccupied by the death he had seen, or by his aggressively meddlesome best buddy, Calvin. Simone held Michael as he cried out in his sleep, and fantasized about not returning to her native England, but some intangible combination of Calvin's dogged intrusions and Michael's inconsolable sense of loss wore her down, and she returned home. Twenty years later, Simone is a district judge in an English seaside village, hearing bankruptcies and custody cases, working hard to support her debt-mined husband and two young sons. Then an ominous letter from Michael arrives, containing semi-lewd photographs, and announcing that he's been searching for her for a long time. As Michael's letters and calls escalate, Simone is severely shaken: Not only does she suspect career-damaging blackmail, but she's flooded with stirring memories of her time with her troubled lover, and of her lonely childhood and the death of her father. And then Michael shows up in her remote village. He has turned bulky with age, after years in a mental hospital; he is as compelling in his pain as he is menacing. While Simone struggles to protect her family from disruption, she also reluctantly opens herself to her former lover and. in so doing, experiences the full weight of the losses she's been running from for her whole life. Dunmore confidently mines a number of subtle themes--the emotional perils of rendering judgment, the lure of vulnerability, the surprising power of memory--in spare, graceful prose. A haunting and psychologically dense exploration, then, that reads as effortlessly as a standard-issue thriller.