A sad, chilling, precise exploration of deranged love, by the author of, among other works, the novels The Innocent (1990) and Black Dogs (1992). Joe Rose, a middle-aged science writer, takes his wife Clarissa to London's Hampstead Heath for a picnic--and stumbles into a tragedy when a man and his young grandson, on a jaunt by balloon, get into serious trouble. Joe is among the bystanders who race to seize the balloon, which is damaged, close to the ground, and being pushed by high winds toward a precipice. One of the rescuers dies. In the aftermath, Joe exchanges words with Jed Parry, a deeply disturbed young man among those who came rushing to help. Isolated, independently wealthy, Parry has attempted to suppress his homosexual inclinations by immersing himself in a fervent and very personal version of Christianity. Parry quickly fixates on Joe, and, deciding that he is meant to be the means by which Joe, a nonbeliever, will be brought back to God, Parry begins haunting him. He shadows Joe's movements around London, loiters outside his apartment, constantly leaves messages and letters. It's not only God's love that Parry believes he's carrying; he's also, in a confused and only partially conscious manner, convinced that Joe loves him and knows everything about him. Joe's increasingly angry attempts to rid himself of Parry seem to the obsessed man only another test of his devotion, while Joe and Clarissa's marriage begins to crumble under the strain, as do their careers. Finally, a desperate Parry decides he must get rid of Clarissa and, possibly, even Joe himself. In lesser hands, the story might be overwrought and unbelievable, but McEwan's terse, lucid prose and sure grasp of character give resonance to this superb anatomy of obsession and exploration of the mind under extreme circumstance. Painful and powerful work by one of England's best novelists.