This novel has a twist in the tale that is well worth the wait - true the wait is nearly book-length before we get to the point of revelation. "Vine is the mistress of that contradiction in terms" one reviewer writes on the back cover, "the slow-moving thriller." Is it self-indulgent? Not really, because she rlentlessly builds up tension, even while she seems to be avoiding the action. And there is lots of residual action in a series of stepped climaxes that were meaty enough for me.
Our protagonist, Tim, is writing this story from hindsight and much of it is painful for him. Very cleverly Vine racks up the suspense in this story of a mixed up young lad who wants to be a writer and who is not sure about his sexuality. He falls for Ivo, an older man, an academic, who takes Tim on his annual lecture-trail on a cruise ship to Alaska, though when Ivo makes a mistake with the dates Tim has to spend two weeks alone in a luxury hotel, waiting for the cruise to begin. While there he falls in love with a woman on her own, and his subsequent problems arise out of the need to keep Ivo and the beautiful Isabel apart. A violent act and a moment of forgetfulness leaves Ivo stranded. But the real truth is yet to be revealed.
The complexity of the story strains the marvellously evocative atmosphere of this novel a little, but it has an entirely satisfying ending, although I do agree with one reviewer here about the gratuitous death of one of the characters, I can't see Vine's supposed 'anti-gay prejudice'. Too much like special pleading.