Morris Duckworth teaches English to the pampered rich of Verona and is not pleased. Living a meager existence in a squalid apartment, he regards his privileged students with envy and disdain, first wreaking revenge by petty theft and then, like all good criminals, graduating to grander larceny. When one of those students, a beautiful but vapid heiress, falls in love with him, Morris can almost smell upward mobility. However, after the girl’s mother—much to his chagrin—unequivocally forbids her from seeing him, he hits upon the perfect scheme: He convinces the besotted girl to run off with him, then sends ransom notes to her family.
Following a frightening logic, Morris’s subversions become deeper and darker. Soon events are spiraling with eerie momentum into a nightmare of deception and violence. As Publishers Weekly observed about the protagonist, “So deft is Parks’s dissection of Morris’s pathology that this taut narrative gains in suspense and surprise and sweeps to a shocking conclusion.”