Trainee reporter Alan Bishop has the grubby background you'd expect of a Brown character--his brothers are half-brothers as his mother was the village tart; his half-sister Shirley is in the same profession though at a classier level--but this more conventional crime story hasn't the bleak tone of Brown's novels of down-and-out kids. It's all about Alan's search for his half-brother Lennie who has escaped from a mental hospital just before Shirley's flat-mate Maggie Jones is found murdered in the park. Somehow Alan evades the police--and the hospital psychiatrist, who wants Alan's cooperation in his own coverup--and determines to find Lennie on his own. Other family members, the mother included, want only to avoid involvement, and whether Alan's motive is responsibility or hate we are never sure and neither is he; but as the secret search continues, pieces of the past begin to surface: Alan discovers who his and Lennie's father was--and, more surprising, that they had different mothers; readers learn of an earlier murder when Lennie was only eleven. As everyone tells him, Alan's behavior now doesn't make much sense; but it does make for a trim, steadily (if never breathlessly) suspenseful mystery--with the search for Lennie moving rapidly along the surface while excavations into the family's past give it an intriguing extra dimension.