Life, it seems, continues on an imperturbable course in cozy Northtown until the arrival of two strangers. One is Emily Frost, whom her godmother Isabel Vernon, though she hasn’t seen her for many years, bails out of prison after she’s arrested for an environmental demonstration turned violent. The other is Godfrey Sutton, paid off long ago to leave sheltered Alice Watkinson alone, who now returns to find that he’s got a four-year-old daughter, Rowena. With a few deft strokes, Yorke (Act of Violence, 1998, etc.) brings these two lost souls together but doesn’t move them to share their secrets: Godfrey, that Rowena Watkinson is the daughter he’s determined to get access to; Emily, that she isn’t Emily Frost at all. As the two plot at darkly comic cross-purposes—Godfrey’s designs against Alice and the frail parents who booted him out turning from extortion to abduction—Yorke patiently reveals the ways in which these two pariahs are expressing the resentment that’s already been seething inside lonely Alice Watson and ill-matched Isabel and her primly minatory husband Douglas, civil servant and landscape gardener (one of the author’s slyest portraits of engorged self-satisfaction). Even after the final quiet twist, you’ll be wishing you could spend more time among Yorke’s dextrously skewered misfits.