And sometimes it seems that the characters of Macdonald's interminable sequel to The Worm from Rough Stones (1975) will never take their departure either. What the earlier work may have lacked in finesse it gave back in readability. Now the Stevensons, once simple, struggling entrepreneurs are strangulated by the webs of finance. It's the 1840's, heyday of Victorian England, of trust in progress through material expansion--here are the principles and the prices of everything, the weights and measures, so tiresome, however true. John, once a railway navvy, is now the employer of close to 30,000 men. His interests have expanded throughout the British Isles and to the Continent. Triple-threat Nora, mother of seven, pursuer of foxes, financial whirling dervish, has however grown as flinty and crafty as a Dickens' villain. ""If you have the poor"", she says, ""you also have the rich. To try to make it otherwise, except by natural economic law and free trade, is against nature and against God."" By contrast, there are the middle-class Thorntons: Walter, setting records in debauchery, and Arabella, zealously cleaning up after him. Where can they go from here? Rich may be better but more is often less.