The story of Robert Millhouser is revealed through the years to young Gerald Higgins in the form of conversations and correspondence with the full account finished twenty years later. It is the attitude of their town, Lyons, Pa., that arouses Gerald's interest in Robert, that and the fact that he had killed his wife. In the development of their relationship which turns into friendship and collaboration, with Robert allowing more intimate details to be known, the path that led to Hedwig's killing is travelled, step by step. Robert's mother, Zilph, whose love for his father and disdain for the town isolated him; the friendship with Chester Sterling Calthorpe, who encouraged Robert's painting, was his companion on a European trip, and thoroughly disillusioned him by his declared homosexuality; the return home and Dr. Willett's understanding and helpfulness; an engagement and its termination; and then, at 50, the compulsive marriage to 19 year old Hedwig--these build up to the realization of her betrayal of, and contempt for, him, and to the fevered determination that he must kill her. His apathy in jail is broken by Calthorpe's visit on leave from a monastery and, with his suspended sentence, he returns to a parallel monkish life in Lyons. A full bill of particulars, this acquaints a patient reader with all the little pressures that cumulate into larger forces; it gives him a clinical report not only on individuals but on the attitudes of the town, and, in its unsparing and unpruned narrative,- although it is more focused than From The Terrace (1958)- overwhelmingly imposes a surfeit of detail and knowledge.