Colin is in many ways an ideal citizen. He holds down a responsible job for the council. He visits his aged mother Nora, shops for her, cooks for her, and listens to her grumbles. He also keeps in touch with his sister Dilys, long estranged from her mother, in a vain attempt to maintain family ties. But neither Dilys, Norah nor Colin's colleagues know about his other - much more secret - life that involves a garden shed, a circus acrobat, a much adored three-year-old charmer, and a certain Mr Haksar's increasingly disquieting penchant for squabbling with his neighbours.
What Colin doesn't know is that, thanks to a house insurance policy incorrectly filled in by his mother, his two lives are set to collide, and there is nothing he can do to stop them. With her customary wit and perception, subtle yet razor sharp in her powers of observation, Anne Fine has produced another tour de force. Her portrait of the complex dynamics of family relationships is as lucid as it is uncomfortable, ending with a climax that in its wry irony and sheer unexpectedness is truly shocking.