Iain Crichton Smith's third novel is as different from his second, The Last Summer, as that was from his first, Consider the Lillies. Crichton Smith is at the height of his powers as poet and prose writer. This new work of fiction follows hard upon his Selected Poems and his volume of short stories, Survival Without Fear. Mark Simmons, aged 42, is a teacher at a training college. His wife has just walked out on him because she has found him so much less interesting than she expected the man she married to be. This event, which he has by no means expected, has jolted him into a major reassessment of himself, of his place in the universe. He realises that he has become bitter, cynical and disillusioned: he is a failure intellectually — he wanted to be a writer, but for years he has striven at one book, which he privately knows to be not very good. He is a failure as a teacher — he wasn't competent enough to obtain a post at a university. He is a failure as a husband, because his wife was daily moving away from him. He is a failure as a father, because he and his wife had had no children. Above all, he is a failure as a human being, because he despises everybody, not least himself. Mark Simmons hates himself for being more concerned with argument than happiness. My Last Duchess is a novel of great resourcefulness and energy.