A gaunt, slow-burning deathwatch over the former gold town of Yellow Bird, Colorado, now gutted in the interests of a new dam and the quasi-reclamation of progress. ""The ghosts had already set in but the wash was still on the line."" Indeed the slag of the past is everywhere, dusting with failure the few who are still around -- primarily Matt Brittman, still attractive and very virile even when gnawed by the disease which is numbering his days along with Yellow Bird's; and his friend Eli Wetherill, town doctor, now wasted by liquor, his competence slurred through the years by the grievances of those he did not salvage. Eli lives with a stockpile of coffins and a caseload of memories -- among them the five dollar babies he delivered to the girls of easier virtue, one of whom now returns from an orphanage childhood. The disconsolate tone yields to drama (not altogether free of melodrama) with the arrival of a catalytic young woman along with that of the young man who is Wetherill's son, with Brittman's blood-soaked fight against a stallion, and Wetherill's quieter act of courage. The novel is isolated and weathered by the harsh expanse of territory in this part of the world, streaked with a sense of loss as margins diminish everywhere, and it also has a ""spunk guts"" quality which strengthens the sentimental undertow.