Timoteo: career as a brain surgeon, beautiful, clever wife, luxurious Roman apartment, villa by the sea. He seems the epitome of success and glamour. But then his daughter falls off her scooter. A colleague operates on her head injuries and, while the agonised Timoteo awaits the outcome, he holds the reader in the vice-like grip of his confession. For, beneath the veneer of his apparently charmed life, there is a story of squalor, degradation, deceit and strange passion. The story of a doomed affair with a woman from a working-class suburb of Rome who, from the moment he gives into instinct and rapes her, to the end of their relationship when she lies under his knife, undermines everything he ever thought he knew about himself. Mazzantini's mesmerising portrait of a supremely controlled man losing control is set to be the most gripping book of 2004. Highly atmospheric, subtly disturbing, it keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. In the end, the suspense of wondering whether Timoteo's daughter will live is overtaken by the question of deciding just how much pity her guilty father deserves.