The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold Picador, HK$114 If you judge a book by the quality of the people involved in the film adaptation, then Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones is as good as books can be. Set for release early in this year, the movie is directed by Peter Jackson, stars Rachel Weisz and Susan Sarandon, and has music by Brian Eno. For once the talent does not lie: The Lovely Bones is a modern classic, a best-seller that is also a work of art, a thing of darkness that is moving and accessible. The premise sounds supremely corny and profoundly upsetting. On December 6, 1973, the teenaged Susie Salmon ('like the fish') is raped, murdered and dismembered by a man called Mr Harvey, who lives just down the road. It is an astonishing and emotionally draining opening: ''Tell me you love me,' he said. Gently, I did. The end came anyway.' Susie then ascends to heaven and watches as her family is destroyed by grief. Denial is followed by pain, which slowly melts into fury, alienation and, gradually, acceptance of sorts. This even includes Harvey, who in Sebold's humane but unsentimental vision of humanity is both villain and victim. The Lovely Bones isn't the happiest novel for a new year, but it is an extraordinary one.