When author George killed off the lovely, bubbly, absolutely perfect Helen Lynley a few novels ago, her fans' outcry was deafening and I've been told she lost about 30% of her readership in protest (not for long, I'm sure). This dark and defeated book, in the usual George style of endless detail relentlessly building up to a climax, is beautifully written and left me wanting to take a long nap. Such is the awful progression of Joel Campbell, young mixed-race boy in the slums of London whose grandmother abandons him and his siblings on his aunt's front porch when granny blows off back to Jamaica. The aunt, totally unprepared and unequipped to deal with the boy, his out-of-control teenaged sister Ness, and Toby, the feeble-minded younger brother, nonetheless gives them a home and tries her best. It's all downhill for everyone of them, from the opening sentence to the terrible, tragic ending. For me, an unappealing and depressing tale, but most George fans will devour it happily. My guess is this is one of those books that had to be written, just to clear the air. I recognize that it's well-written, but don't skip your uppers while you're reading it: a 4