“There’s been so much happen to me, so many strange things. Terrible things. My mind is in a whorl, confused as to what I should relate first. Where to begin? I must describe my cell. After all, it has become my world. Strange, that I who once had the entire globe to choose from, am now confined within a twelve feet by twelve feet boundary.”
So writes Philip Calder. He is being kept a prisoner, alone, on a remote Scottish island. His life is shrunk to the stifling confines of his small room, a courtyard surrounded by high walls, and the sterile company of two uniformed guards whom he ironically names Morcambe and Wise. He is only allowed a pen and paper to break the monotony. So he writes. He writes about how he came to be there, starting at the beginning, when Maxwell Stone first came into his world.
He relates how his world was altered forever when Connie Stone and her ten year old son Max moved into the small mining town of Overthorpe. It’s the 1960s, and Connie causes a stir amongst the locals, for wearing bright lipstick, short skirts, and, the worst of all, being a single mother. Calder is at once captivated by her.
Philip becomes friends with her son, but it is a strange, volatile relationship. Max is unfathomable, unpredictable, often violent, and as they grow older both Philip and Max vie for one young woman’s attention – Ruby. But it’s Max’s strange fascination with wanting to be Philip Calder, to have his life, his identity, that triggers a series of unpredictable events that will lead to Calder’s imprisonment.
Gavin Miller is a successful author. He is in possession of Calder’s manuscript, having been handed it by the manager of a nursing home called Overton Hall. He knows he must destroy it, because in it is laid bare his own dark secret.