History: Published in 2003.
Plot: George Webb, middle-aged private detective and discharged police inspector, is taking the day off to visit a former client serving a prison sentence for murdering her husband and to place flowers on the victim’s grave on her behalf. Through Webb’s stream of consciousness we gradually learn that Sarah Nash hired him a few years earlier to shadow her husband, who was committing adultery with a beautiful Balkan refugee they had taken into their home.
Webb regarded it as just another ho-hum divorce case until he fell in love with his client and she surprised him by murdering her husband with a kitchen knife after the infatuated man had regretfully sent young Kristina back to her Croatian homeland from Heathrow Airport, sacrificing personal feelings to honor and duty. Now in the present, covered in Webb’s single November day, the detective is haunted by remorse and guilt while determined to wait out the eight remaining years until Sarah will be released and they may hopefully resume their brief but passionate love affair.
Review: In this novel, Graham Swift takes us inside Webb's mind. For one dazzling day, we see what Webb sees and know only what his thinking reveals. We learn about his childhood and the secret it forced him to carry; his changing relationship with his once-renegade daughter; the last moments with his ex-wife; his fall from grace as a cop; the unexpected ease with which he has turned his police-learned skills to the more delicate demands of his new profession. And we learn how those demands have put him in silent league with the fateful client, a woman he has come to love.
Opening Line: “Something’s come over you.”
Closing Line: “When I’m there, when I’m waiting, heart thudding, my breath billowing before my eyes, when she comes back, steps out at last into the clear light of day.”
Quotes: “There’s something just a bit pleasing about the disasters of the well-off.”