A slight but by no means trivial first novel examines the drift of love, power and possession, and in so doing exposes some precarious personal relationships. Bill Pleasance, a self- made and successful man in the theatre, has also applied his skill as an impresario to some private benevolences- ""propping up broken down people"", among them his wife, Josephine, her former husband who is still close to their household, and Max Hudson, an aging bit part actor. It is a means of expiation, for his own inadequacies, and nowhere do they show up more revealingly than with his stepson, Ben, a serious boy who keeps his distance. It is through Donald Beamish, a schoolmaster, that Pleasance tries to keep a closer watch on the boy, assure and reassure the relationship which is rewarded with obedience but not returned with love. It is only after Ben dies that he learns- but cannot really believe- that the boy he had attempted to appropriate had finally accepted him... The deficit in the relationships between fathers and sons, husbands and wives, has its accounting here in unequivocal terms which still permits sympathy for all those involved, and there is no question that it is both subtle and knowledgeable.