Huddling in a cold, nameless town on the Suffolk coast, Tim Cornish recalls the time he got away with murder, not realizing that in Ruth Rendell's novels as Barbara Vine, nobody ever gets away with anything. Tim's victim is his sometime lover, paleontologist Ivo Steadman, the man who made Tim realize he wasn't undersexed but merely uninterested in women. Their whirlwind affair leads Ivo to invite Tim on an Alaskan cruise for which he'll be one of the resident experts. Besotted with Tim, Ivo makes a fateful mistake that maroons Tim in Juneau for a week without him, and Tim-- beautiful, grasping, and utterly unscrupulous--takes that week to fall in love with mysterious Isabel Winwood. Panicking when he's squeezed between his two lovers, Tim confesses his earlier affair to Isabel but insists he's broken up with ``her''; aboard the ship with Ivo, he demands to be released from his commitment and reimbursed for his trip so that he can hunt Isabel down in Seattle. When Ivo threatens to get in touch with Isabel himself, Tim attacks him on a remote island and leaves him for dead as the ship steams away. Over a year passes before a series of cagey anonymous letters about famous maroonings in history makes Tim realize that somebody knows the secret he's kept so carefully. Much of this tangled web is laid out, in Vine's usual manner, from the beginning of Tim's narrative, but Vine saves her quota of surprises for the end. After the mind-boggling complexities of Anna's Book (1993), this is as relaxed, even tranquil, as Vine ever gets. If the plotting is a little thinner than usual, her seductive way with plausible, self-excusing Tim is a model of suave unmasking.