Both Evelyn Chestnutt, 12, and her 9-year-old brother Buell love their brother-in-law Cam, a former artist and teacher who, when a hoodlum destroyed his painting, quit both careers and went off to work as a cowboy for mean and imperious Major Peacock. Intense and prickly, Evelyn regrets Cain's defection and disaffection; and she is shocked to her boots when she and Buell visit Cam and their sister Reba on the ranch and Evelyn discovers that Cam is involved with rustlers who are stealing the Major's cattle. Evvie tries but fails to stop the practice without letting on she knows--mainly by pushing the Major, who has taken a bothersome liking to her, to install lights at his gate. Finally Cam and his cohorts are caught with a truck full of calves. Buell, desperate, lies to save him, but Evvie--guided by the image of a bird that has been important to her throughout as a sort of emblem of beauty and integrity--tells the truth. From Evvie's first sight of the rustlers, her own anguish and continued spunky retorts carry the story, but before that the Cleavers' characteristic rich-plain prose often seems to strain for eloquence and effect. There's something a bit pious, too, about the unexamined opposition between Cain's old commitment to mind and art and his post-disillusionment indifference to property rights. However, their well-known talent for creating a strong heroine, blazing scenes, and hard choices gives this the reliable Cleaver punch.