In the made-up country of Sarmeda, Josef Baisz has done all right for himself; at the time he takes pen to paper to write clown these ""confessions"" he holds the post of Deputy Minister of National Guidance, a suitably spooky job for a spooky man. His has been a life of utter amorality: ratting on his friends while in the Republican Guard (""When I saw Fenter I loved him for his ignorance of what I had done to him""); serving as bodyguard/confidant to a succession of government officials whom he variously cuckolds, drives to distraction, and betrays. Josef feels emotion only when he does someone dirty--and then a sensualism envelops him, a proof of being alive. Jacobson (The Beginners, The Rape of Tamar) keeps his tone close to hypnotic--Baisz is a monster who never in word or deed raises his voice. A great deal of expectant suspense is accumulated this way, but it's never quite redeemed, as if Jacobson let the book drop and fail between the clear, spare, aerial lines of his character. Underplayed too much, but interesting.