A grim, intense, overlong study of a halfway house, its members, its exploiters, and its destroyers, with gore aplenty but the real story one of damaged souls trying to heal (cf. The Samaritan, 1988). Among the many who have found their way to the Refuge, an honestly run but illegal teen-age sanctuary are: reporter Alex, out to get the scoop for her paper; Mark, temporarily in charge and struggling with his sense of sanity; pregnant, schizzy Mandy; Tina the Pakistani drug-runner; and Kez, who's trying to escape her mass-murderer brother Seb, a seemingly affable Cambridge grad. While Mark and Alex learn to trust each other, the Refuge is broken into, one resident dies from an overdose of sleeping pills (murder? suicide?), and another learns that he has AIDS. There is also constant minor bickering, along with major menace, when Seb discovers where Kez is, which prompts more deaths and the Refuge's destruction. Marred by too many stream-of-consciousness episodes (from practically everybody), the book is more novelistic than mysterious--and the more forceful because of it. An un-sentimental excursion into unhappy lives, then, with a mystery subplot. For thoughtful readers with a bent for psychology.