The Hamilton Case relates, in polished, lyrical style, the life story of an isolated, arrogant and moderately successful Ceylonese lawyer, Stanley Obeysekere. It is not a pleasant life story either - his reckless and feckless father is overshadowed by his detached and dysfunctional mother, his career marred by his overweening ambition, damaging jealousies and intransient intolerance, and his ability to form rewarding relationships with others undermined by his obsession and his guilt surrounding his curiously under-developed sister.
The glory of this novel lies in its prose - musicality drips off every page, so much so that one is lulled into a false sense of beauty and often has to re-read a paragraph just to make sure that such finely crafted words really could have said something so horrific. The story - even the action surround the Hamilton case, the murder of white farmer, in which Stanley makes his name - is consistently understated and the delivery always deviously subtle. The substance of the story itself though is insipid and, frankly, dull. It's a shame that such fine words have been wasted on something so insubstantial: it's all sugar and no meat. I cannot understand how this book could have won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, but it did.