This is Iris Murdoch not at her best but, still, at her most recognizable. There are the same sterile, self-bound characters inviting indignities and humiliations; there is the expected moral and spiritual equivocation; there is the usual fastidiousness, even fussiness, of style with those surprising small errors; above all there is the predictably unpredictable plot as, now, the lives of Cato and Henry intersect. They were once friends but have drifted apart. Cato, ""invaded by Christ,"" has become a Catholic convert and priest only to lapse quickly because of his attraction to a young punk, Beautiful Joe. Henry, who would easily have settled for anonymity in America, returns as inheritor after the death of his much more attractive brother. Then there's Colette, Cato's sister, the only cheerful one around. She would like to marry Henry but he has appropriated Stephanie, his brother's side-street mistress, as if she were part of his brother's legacy. Stephanie has all kinds of idees de grandeur; funnily enough she's only a char. The action gears up toward the close when Cato is kidnapped by Beautiful Joe, when Joe insists that Colette serve as go-between, when he attempts to rape her and then slashes her face, and when Cato, in an unexpected show of heroism, kills Bloody Joe. As always, Miss Murdoch lends a special acuity and particularization to her characters even though she adamantly denies all save two the ""gift of happiness."" But then they have contributed their own deprivation--immolating themselves and cultivating suffering of all kinds, whether the discomfiture of false teeth or the depreciation of dream fantasies.