Chloe Dale's life is in good order. Her only child, Toby, has started his junior year at New York University; her academic husband Brendan is on sabbatical, working at home on his book about the Crusades; and Chloe has been commissioned to illustrate Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights for the limited editions book market. The Dales' old house in rural New York is book-crammed, comfortable and finally paid up. Her complacency is shattered by the introduction of Toby's new girlfriend, Salome Drago. Salome, raised in the Croatian expatriate community in Louisiana, is a toxic mix of the old world and the new: intelligent, superstitious, sly and confident. She provokes in the mild-mannered Toby tumultuous emotions hitherto unknown to him. Chloe distrusts Salome on sight. Increasingly alienated from her tolerant husband and besotted son, she turns to her work. As Toby's obsession for her grows, Salome decides to penetrate the thicket of lies surrounding the death of her mother during the Serbian occupation of her family's home town.
Salome's subsequent disappearance into the still seething hatreds of the former Yugoslavia and Toby's decision to leave school and follow her, bring the Dales to a confrontation with dark and chaotic forces that threaten to terminate their tenuous occupancy of the realms of light. Valerie Martin's long-awaited novel is a brilliant study of jealousy, both sexual and territorial, and of the wreck of reason by the locomotive of passionate love.
Valerie Martin is the author of two collections of short fiction and seven novels, including the 2003 Orange Prize-winning Property. She is also the author of a non-fiction work about St Francis of Assisi, Salvation. She lives in upstate New York.