In this his first full length novel, Stefan Zweig shows his ability to read into the secret hearts of his characters, the faculty that has given such a human quality to his biographies. This is a strange and somewhat morbid story, set in a frame which adds nothing to its value. A retired officer, a hero to his fellows, tells his own story not in extenuation but in explanation of the real meaning back of his seeming indifference to danger. It is a story which is symbolic -- a story of a man, caught in an inescapable web woven of pity and emotions too strong to resist. The setting is pre-war Vienna and the countryside -- a drab town where a military post is established, and the castle on the outskirts, with its strange household, revolving around the whims and unwholesome neuroticism of a crippled girl. One feels in reading it, thoroughly aware as an outsider of the net closing around the young officer -- and powerless to halt the march of fate. The end is, in a sense, a surprise. Zweig manages to sustain the sense of conflict and to hold the suspense throughout. Zweig has been lecturing fairly widely over the country, and his new audience will add readers to the already wide market for his biographies.