Sian, tired of nightmares in which she meets a grisly end, decides she needs to get out more, so she joins an archaeological dig at Whitby Abbey. What she finds is a mystery involving a long-hidden murder, a man with big hands, a fragile manuscript in a bottle, and a rather attractive dog called Hadrian. Faber's dazzling novella takes us up the 199 steps in Whitby that link the 21st century with the ruins of the past. Equal and indissoluble parts thriller, romance, historical/ghost story and meditation on the nature of sincerity, this is an ingenious literary page-turner. Atmospheric photographs complement the text beautifully. This book, like Henry James's The Turn of the Screw, deploys a masterful sense of ambiguity, outstanding narrative power, works on many levels and, as always with Faber's writing, is elegant, thought-provoking, distinctive and compelling.

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