Single, in her thirties, of aristocratic Hungarian stock, Marit Deym has large land holdings in the Berkshires that she has decided to turn into a wildlife sanctuary; private and unsocial, she's more giving with wolves and lynxes than with people. But a person, a man--Gabriel Frankman, a teacher at the neighboring school for wealthy blind children--sparks a charge in her. An anchoritic, self-mortifying personality to begin with (even more so since the suicide-death of a fiancÃ‰e), Gabriel approaches the involvement with Marit warily at best: his passion seems like a spiritual exercise out of Loyola. But Marit falls into surprising, distressing depths of love-smother, so all-consumed that when she spies Gabriel with a pretty blind girl student, talking with and touching her (all completely innocent), an atrocious plague of jealousy descends--and it eventually turns her into fully as much a predator as the wolves she keeps illegally on her land. Thus, the novel executes a sharp late turn into the gothic: Marit, frayed with jealousy, gets the chance--and takes it--to run down the blind girl through a dark forest until the child drowns in a pond (a death that will later be blamed by the town on the wolves, Marit's innocent treasure). First-novelist Arensberg is a prose writer of substantial gift (""If diagrammed in time of emergency, Gabriel's mind would be layered like the earth's crust, with desire buried under successive levels of duty""). Her verbal sensibility bears some comparison to John Casey's: epigrammatic, intaglio-like. And though the characters here never quite touch one another--they seem instead to hunch shoulder to shoulder between the binder of Arensberg's marvelous style--this is a book of suave intelligence, of sculpted skill, wobbling into melodrama (perhaps unavoidably) but remaining vividly-etched throughout.