Alfred Busi lives alone in his villa overlooking the waves. Famed in his tiny Mediterranean town for his music, he is mourning the recent death of his wife and quietly living out his days. Then one night, Busi is viciously attacked by an intruder in his own courtyard—bitten and scratched. He insists his assailant was neither man nor animal. Soon, Busi's account of what happened is being embellished to fan the flames of old rumor—of an ancient race of people living in the surrounding forest. It is also used to spark new controversy, inspiring claims that something must finally be done about the town's poor, whose numbers have been growing. In trademark crystalline prose, Jim Crace portrays a man taking stock of his life and looking into an uncertain future, while bearing witness to a community in the throes of great change.