As if in a dream, a washed-up Chicago playwright sleepwalks into murder, then into taking over the life of the man he killed. Nobody knows that Andrew Neville is staying in a friend's hunting cabin in Wisconsin when he gets into a trivial fight with a stranger that leaves the stranger dead. Afterward, Neville wipes out every sign of his presence from the cabin and heads back home without leaving any paper trail. Despite his lack of premeditation, he's committed the perfect crime, one that's left no trace at the crime scene or within Neville himself, who keeps waiting to feel remorse or horror but feels only a vague stirring of satisfaction and renewed purpose. When Neville realizes he'd known John Dempsey from a theater group years ago, he decides to attend his funeral, purloins Dempsey's display handkerchief from his decorously arrayed body, and introduces himself to Dempsey's lovely wife Claudia, an actress who's feeling more frozen out than ever by her in-laws. It's a romance made in hell, but Neville is perfectly willing to pursue it in his mild, circumspect way, even though Roland Scheiss, the horrid lawyer hired by the elder Dempseys to investigate their son's murder, makes it clear that he assumes Neville conspired with Claudia to kill her husband and intends to gather enough evidence to blackmail them for a sizable chunk of Dempsey's estate. It's obvious that Neville's state of trancelike equilibrium--as he ingratiates himself with a falcon Dempsey had been training and plots his theatrical comeback via a play of Dempsey's--can't last. But Dempsey's luminously understated narrative preserves a crystalline surface undisturbed by any ripple right up to the inevitable catastrophe, which is perhaps a bit too ironic for the generally hushed buildup. No matter. The spare, surrealistic mastery of just the right detail makes this Faust's most rewarding thriller since his return to fiction with In the Forest of the Night (1992).