Angela Carter’s first novel, like Walter Scott’s The Fair Maid of Perth, owes its unsparing darkness to a theme of mutilation. A frail, lovely young woman is slashed with a knife. Her disfigurement haunts the narrator, as it does us. The otherwise intensely-realised world of early 60’s bohemia, as seen from an antique shop run by a failed painter and a psychopath, is distorted by it, just as the victim’s life is distorted by her suffering. Disturbing, to say the least.