Freddie Montgomery, a former university lecturer in statistics, is in prison for murder, and he is ready to tell his story. He begins by describing the conditions of the prison he calls home, displaying in his tone a bravado that embraces his experience as a captured animal, a monster. He describes the noises and smells of prison but refuses to speak of the various kinds of darkness he and other prisoners face. This explicit refusal reveals the fear and uncertainty just beneath the controlled, analytical exterior Freddie generally presents.
Freddie introduces his wife, Daphne, and describes their life together, living in various places along the Mediterranean before returning to Ireland. He describes a life of modest luxury, and it becomes evident that they are living beyond their means. They make the acquaintance of a drug dealer named Randolph, and Freddie extorts a “loan” from him under the threat of revealing Randolph’s criminal activities. Randolph gets the money from Aguirre, a loan shark. Freddie does not repay the loan, though, so he receives Randolph’s ear in the mail—a threat from Aguirre. Freddie’s wife and son are held as hostages, so Freddie returns to Ireland to raise money to pay Aguirre and secure his family’s safety.
Eventually, Freddie goes to the home of his mother, Dolly, in Coolgrange, and engages in awkward conversation with her, a talk that escalates into fighting. He is surprised at the intimate nature of her relationship with her friend Joanne, after seeing them embrace and then finding them lying casually together on the bed. Dolly says that Joanne is like the son she never had. Freddie soon finds out, too, that his mother had sold some paintings that he had hoped to sell to raise money so that he could repay Aguirre. Dolly had sold the painting to Helmut Behrens, an art connoisseur, leading Freddie to fly into a rage. Behrens, Freddie’s father, and dealer and gallery owner Charlie French used to buy and sell paintings together.
Freddie leaves for Whitewater, the Behrens estate, to find out the fate of the...
(The entire section is 852 words.)