First Lieut. Dan Tierney is the executive officer of a Marine Detachment stationed aboard the U.S.S. Vanguard on a cruise in the Pacific. When four of his men become involved in a homosexual incident he tries at first to cover up for the honor of the Corps and when that becomes impossible he defies the Captain of the ship for the sake of one of the four whom he believes to be innocent. For his efforts on behalf of young Ted Freeman, who along with the others, receives an Undesirable Discharge, Tierney is reprimanded and transferred to a flabby reserve regiment. Freeman, the constant victim, is later killed in a brawl ashore. Tierney accepts the injustice to Freeman and his own punishment out of an overzealous dedication to the Corps. In his view the Marine Corps is the best there is; the fact that the personal cost to him is high only reinforces his opinion. Dubus is a former Marine Corps career officer who resigned from the service and his first novel is an almost convincing portrayal of a good man who does the wrong thing. But he endows his character with too much intelligence and sensitivity (let alone the good advice of his friends) to be altogether credible as the organization man. Perhaps Dubus' own experience testifies to the impracticality of Tierney's kind of compromise.