A frequent pleasure is to dip into an old novel – been on the bookcase for years! – and see how the writer speedily sets up a principal character early in the story. Take Clare Francis’ Red Crystal, written in 1985 and watch her rather other-worldly Victoria Danby endure an excruciating family dinner party. Wearing a scarlet bandeau and introduced by her mother as “our exotic daughter”, Danby feels crushed by dismissive small talk, suffers shafts of winking humour from a randy brigadier, then gets drunk and makes an idiotic speech. Sympathy, texture and humour all in a few tight lines.