Winner of Ireland's largest literary award for the best book of 1989, Banville's latest is an elegantly written, often darkly comic meditation upon evil and guilt--and a great imaginative leap beyond his previous efforts (Kepler, 1983, etc.). Frederick Charles St. John Vandveld Montgomery has returned to Ireland in a desperate search for money. Earlier, living with his wife on a Mediterranean island with no visible means of support, he blackmailed a drug-pusher into giving him a loan. When Frederick welshed on the debt, the man behind the pusher, Senor Aguirre, prevented the wife from leaving the island and threatened to kill her if Frederick didn't come up with the payment. Frederick, having come to Ireland, visits his mother in the countryside, where she is raising Connemara ponies, but there is no money to be had. Then Frederick kidnaps a young woman--a housemaid--in the course of a robbery and kills her ("It's not easy to wield a hammer in a motor car"). On the run, he falls in with a wise old family friend, Charlie French, who puts him up in his house unaware of the murder. Eventually, Frederick is spotted by a shopgirl and denounced to the police. While on remand awaiting trial, haunted by moral ambiguity, he writes this book of evidence, grappling with his life itself. ("Does the court realize, I wonder, what this confession is costing me?") Frederick begins to see that Charlie's well-meaning placing of him in a sinecure was the beginning of his downfall: always taking the easy way out has left him defenseless against the temptations of the world. There are still those who would help him get off--Charlie supplies him with the best defense lawyer in Ireland--but Frederick struggles to find meaningful guilt for his awful deed. A novel of high moral seriousness, gracefully written--one that lingers on in the mind long after it is read.