A baldly stated but softly spoken treatment of a fundamental theme in world literature: May a man flee the terrible evil he has done, cleanse his soul of poison, and find the love and affection he has always wanted? The author, an Ã‰migrÃ‰ from Angola who now lives in England, sets his intense second novel (after Patriots, not reviewed) in the fictional African island country of Henrique, a former Portuguese colony (south of So TomÃ‰ and west of Angola). The narrator is Fernando Luis, an orphan, journalist, interrogator, torturer, and killer who confirms on the last page what the reader has long suspected: He is writing his story as an act of absolution and has included only those few episodes and details that seem to bear the meaning of his life -- the cool, almost chemically reduced residue of a few short, hellishly burning years during which he committed many reprehensible acts in order to ingratiate himself with Henrique's dictatorial regime. 'Nando Luis is a man morally paralyzed, unable or unwilling to move, a feverish witness to everything from happy people doing the samba to unhappy people hacking bodies to pieces. At times, Luis thinks his acts of evil stem from a simple survival instinct (betray a lover to save your skin), or from basic human emotions like envy or the desire for revenge (I want what you have and I can never have; you treat me poorly, I will treat you or someone like you even more poorly). But where did the evil come from, why did it choose Luis, and why does it refuse to leave him? Luis doesn't know, and the author's refusal to provide glib, melodramatic, or superficial answers to these questions gives the text a tone of gripping anguish. A novel of rare wisdom and power.