In the hallucinatory light and heat of a Mediterranean island, a geologist arrives to inspect a granite quarry where a worker has been killed in suspicious circumstances. Briefed in advance to write a damning report, he brings along his young mistress and pushes his wife and family to the back of his mind. But his blithe plans are disrupted by the arrival of the dead man's widow, hell-bent on revenge; a fax from his wife announcing her pregnancy; and a threatening dispute with the quarry owners. Conflicting messages and complex motivations abound until, from the dust and roar of quarry and stone mill, the jagged contours of a harrowing conspiracy emerge. By the time the home office instructs him to drop the case, it is too late. He has already stumbled into a web of blackmail, deception, and murder. "Shear, " a geological term, occurs when "pressure is applied in at least two different and not diametrically opposite directions, " and in Shear Tim Parks has created a shattering portrait of a man confronting multiple forces and mounting obsessions. At stake is his marriage, his affair, his career, the life of an unborn child, his own life, and the lives of innocent people. Inevitably, all decisions and choices will emerge as suspect. Even integrity can be "just a cover for escape."