From the Back Cover:
In this spare and powerful novel, three young people are profoundly influenced by the death by hanging of a fourth. The dead man is Fred Thompson, seemingly a victim of circumstance, who had been convicted of killing a policeman in a brawl. John, Fred’s best friend, is the central figure of the story. He attempts to pursue a career as a musician and is in love with Lillian. But their affair is blighted by the memory of Fred, and by Fred’s sister Isabelle, who believes she has been destroyed by her brother’s execution and is driven to destroy John and Lillian as well. By seducing John she ends his relationship with Lillian and sets of a chain of events that ruins his chance of a career. John, alone, impoverished and unbalanced, resolves to murder her, only to discover that having become a murderer in his own mind, he does not need to carry out the intent.