Dark family secrets, a long-lost love affair and a multi-million pound gaming business lie at the heart of Iain Banks' fabulous new novel . The Wopuld family have built their fortune on a board game called EMPIRE. It has transferred remarkably well to the computer generation and now the American Spraint corporation want to buy them out. Alban, who has been evading the family tentacles for the last few years, thinks the yanks should be treated with suspicion - but he also has other things on his mind. What was it that drove his mother to take her own life? And has he ever really got over Sophie, the girl he had a teenage love affair with and who will be present at the forthcoming family gathering in their highland castle?