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Dr Jim Hall, a registrar in a psychiatric institution, is fascinated by Ivan Radicevic, a charismatic former war veteran from Croatia who has withdrawn behind a wall of moody silence. Ivan Radicevic is Jim’s age, though looks considerably older because of his wartime experience. He also has a mysterious shoulder injury, the disabling nature of which puzzles both Jim and Shane, the psychiatric nurse caring for him.
A series of flashbacks into the recent past reveals Ivan’s fragmenting mind through his interactions with authority figures in Australia - an immigration official, a thug and a policeman - and raise more questions about who this man is and what he has done in his former homeland. What is the symbolic significance of his love of birds? What has happened to his wife and children, and who is the mysterious character Viktor, who appears to haunt and taunt him?
Hall is determined to find out, but as he presses towards the truth, he is unprepared for the unravelling of a secret that threatens to tear their delicate relationship apart.
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