A modern-day morality tale in which only some of the bad guys get mixed. David, 16, is not ready to take on his friend Molly's latest cause--befriending a new boy, Bran, whose long hair and earring make him the butt of jokes and malicious teasing. But whether it's stray cats or lonely boys, Molly is persistent; David finds himself helping Bran in spite of himself. Then Bran's background is revealed: he's the son of a serial killer who is now on trial. Hatred toward Bran infects the town as people wonder how much he knew of his father's vicious crimes; the hatred turns to violence when a mob attacks Bran's home--and when a local hero and Bran go head to head in a chilling scene that results in their both drowning. The ending may trouble readers, since David and Molly sit quietly by, allowing the boys to die. But with that act the circle of provocation is complete. David is no hero: he coolly observes the evil in others; he--and Tolan--admit that he can never again be sure that he is incapable of wrongdoing. Good suspense, with some muddying of motivation but, overall, well executed.