This is really a fantastic book.
Its short, and entirely in the form of a first-person monologue. An artist, retired from Londons busy art scene to a remote and rural island, has invited a former friend, a well-respected critic, to come sit for a portrait. As the work progresses, the artist recounts the tale of how the critic became his mentor in the art world at first, on the surface, it may seem a rather banal tale, if one that offers interesting insights into the scene in England at the beginning of the 20th century but as the narrative progresses, progressively more undertones of darkness and menace appear, and the reader begins to suspect there is more to this story than the reunion of two old friends and the denouement makes it all more than worthwhile.
Most impressive in this, is Pears ability to create characterizations and insights that far exceed the limited vision and self-centered attitude of his narrator, all through that narrators words
The more you read, the more interesting it gets. It really grabs you towards the end.
Iain Pears is a master of mystery/suspense and period settings not to mention characters who come to life vividly, as evidenced in An Instance of the Fingerpost and Stone's Fall. This shorter book packs just as much punch, weaving a tale slowly from its quiet beginning.