Grizzled ex-cop P.I. Lew Archer is called in to the principal’s office when a boarding school student runs away after less than a week in class. But this is no ordinary school. It’s something of a school for wayward boys, and the runaway in question had just apparently stolen his neighbor’s car and wrecked it. Archer sinks his teeth into the case when no one will give him a straight answer, not even the boy’s distraught parents.
Ignoring orders to cease his investigation, Archer stumbles across a few leads stretching back twenty years to the end of World War II, a few dead bodies and a possibly phony kidnapping. This is another one of Macdonald’s family-secret puzzles, where no one tells the truth and everyone is guarding a secret that would blow up their lives. The plotting is expertly done, as the revelations are layered throughout the novel, rendering the mystery’s outrageous conclusion inevitable.