Detective Inspector Scobie Malone and sidekick Sergeant Russ Clements have been sent from their Sydney headquarters (Murder Song, etc.) to the Australian Outback to help solve the murder of Ken Sagawa, manager of South Cloud, a Japanese-owned cotton factory in the town of Collamundra. The local cops--Narvo and Baldick--are cooperative to a point, but Scobie is soon aware that the town's power center is autocratic Chester Hardstaff, whose equally autocratic daughter Amanda is married to hard-drinking Dr. Max Nothling. Hardstaff's own wife was murdered years before, in a case never solved. Scobie and Clements move gingerly but tenaciously in the face of heavy local prejudices against outsiders and against their own Aborigines. The puzzle the two finally solve is muddled and undermotivated; Cleary's narrative style is overembroidered with philosophical asides, but, still, this is worth reading for its cleareyed picture of the life and people in an isolated Outback town.