David Fairfax, a student at an Australian Jesuit school, decides to invite two friends to spend vacation on land at the coast that he inherited from his father; ordinarily only Bill Green, an old Gallipoli veteran who serves as caretaker, is on site at the mucky estuary and island. First invited by David is Peter Vandeleur, a brilliant but psychotic fellow student who roams around the island shooting reptiles with an old sawed-off shotgun called the Martini-Henry. After Peter leaves, Anthony Carmichael arrives, both boys' lay-teacher at the school: fat, alcoholic, and homosexual, Anthony is in love with David, but the boy only toys, amusedly, with this adoration. Their tense idyll together is broken by the reappearance of Peter; with his old gun in hand, he orders Anthony out into the swamp to serve as moving prey; Peter, it seems, has been a lover of Anthony's too. The triangle is slightly laborious (it squares off in the denouement, when the old caretaker is dealt in) and melodramatic; but Hughes' swamp is truly creepy, and he has a sure sense for noises in the dark, and shadows, and unexplained lights.