PATRICK McGrath's new novel brims with passion, death, ghoulish psychic energies, and incest in a steamy tropical setting.

The story concerns, in McGrath's own words, "the romantic figure of the brilliant but dissolute artist". It's a romantic tale of passion between Vera Savage, a fiery Glasgow born painter, and Jack Rathbone, her younger artist lover endowed with a Byronic virility. Then there's an unhealthy slice of incestuous desire thrown into the mix.

The genre of Gothic fiction, to which this novel firmly belongs, lends itself to an approach where, like Frankenstein and his monster, the characters are subject to forces more powerful than they can ever hope to contend with.

But you can't help but feel the controlling hand of the author here, and the characters sometimes feel shoe-horned into their own destinies.

Page-turning as this book is - it is in the end more interesting as a clever variation on a Gothic theme than it is satisfying as a work of fiction.

Port Mungo by Patrick McGrath is published in hardback by Bloomsbury, priced £16.99.