The Mill is a first novel and though it deals with (some would say is devoted to) a kind of decadence that will doubtless be found abhorrent by most readers, there can be no question of the author's skill, the powerful quality of his writing and, to a certain extent, the legitimacy of his theme. The mill is located in a Massachusetts town named, before the Civil War, for its founder. It is the dominant presence in the lives of the people of Ambler Falls who depend on it and the owners for their existence and who fear and hate it for that very reason. But now, in the present, the mill is in the hands of a different breed of men -- financiers, efficiency experts, and the atmosphere is one of corruption. The central fact running through the story is the supposed rape and murder of an idiot child, the daughter of two unspeakably degenerate alcoholics. In the course of the search for her killer the lives of Ambler Falls' citizens are exposed and the picture presented is one of unbridled sexuality, desperate squalor, intellectual and moral whoredom, despair nursed in alcoholism, and, by contrast, the last vestiges of a human dignity, stoicism, and a self-sacrificing love. The death of Cissie Martin is in fact an accident but the truth has become irrelevant and symbolically, at the end, a flood sweeps through the town and the mill. There is a kind of gothic grotesquerie to all this, a symbol of American loss of vitality, found, at its worst, among the decaying southern aristocrats and perverted Yankee puritans.