A wonderfully well-conceived, menacingly executed tale of despair, from a veteran writer of domestic horrors (A Lovely Day to Die, The Parasite Person, etc.) When Alice Saunders is usurped in her husband's affections by Ivy, who's fawned over him for years, she walks out of their house empty-handed--no money, no trinkets, etc.--and moves into a garret storage room of an eccentric boardinghouse presided over by the chatty Hettie. Among the tenants: the artistic Brian, a musician; Miss Dorinda, a vegetarian beautician; and paranoid Mary, a young, terrified girl who keeps to herself when she's not ransacking Alice's room. For what? Gradually, Mary's secret comes out: she is the ""Sister of the Monster""--her brother Julian, a mass murderer, has been remanded to prison. As Alice becomes Mary's unwilling confidante, more of Mary's story pours out--houndings by the gutter press; her dad's fatal heart attack; her mum's hasty departure for Spain; her convoluted feelings for her brother; her attempts to distance herself from her family. Then a stranger comes calling, retrieves Julian's diary, and abducts Mary. Meanwhile, Julian escapes from custody. The story's sad--yet hopeful--resolution on a hillside near their childhood home frees, in different ways, both brother and sister. Realistically rough-edged characters, positively lyrical descriptions of flora and fauna, and insights that rankle: a first-rate piece of work.