The boys who hang around The Willows, the house of old Tom Morton--Steve Burton, 14, and his friend Mark Conway, 10--don't give any thought to their casual deceptions or thefts. Neither does Mark's friend Terry Gardner or his brother Justin at neighboring Merrifields. But each of the boys is acting out another chapter in the sorry tale of their absent or inadequate parent-figures. The Gardner boys resent their new stepfather Richard, whom they think responsible for the mood swings of their neurotic mother, Verity, a self-styled artist. Mark, left on his own by his working mother and his caretaker, Steve's unwitting stepmother, is struggling to find adults he can trust. And Steve, though he doesn't realize it, is already preparing to follow in the footsteps of Tom's son Alan, just released from years in prison after shooting his wife. When retiree Marigold Darwin returns to her hometown bent on purchasing Merrifields, the home she grew up in, her well-meaning interference in the boys' lives sparks another of the matchless bourgeois tragedies in which Yorke briskly drains her characters of their last petty secret. Connoisseurs might argue that the story's intricacy, its echo of sorrow and misdeed from generation to generation, makes it less swift and brutal than Almost the Truth (1995). But readers with a taste for Yorke's grim counterpoint won't complain.