In this, the second book featuring Detective Inspector Jack Laidlaw, he is summoned to the hospital bed of Eck Adamson, a dying alcoholic vagrant, and once again he is travelling the mean streets of Glasgow, Scotland. In this world, titled ladies, down-and-outs and middle class students mingle with the hard men of the Glasgow underworld. Alliances shift and change as Laidlaw tries to find Tony Veitch, a young student who may have killed the vagrant and a criminal. There don't seem to be any heroes in this story, not even Laidlaw himself, who is laid even more bare by the perceptions of Harkness, his partner, than in the first book. But a hero does emerge; in Laidlaw's view, and in McIlvanney's, the real heroes are working class middle aged to elderly women, the ones who hold family and home together, in the face of overwhelming change and outside pressures. John Steinbeck recognised these heroes and has Ma Joad in 'Grapes of Wrath.' McIlvanney's personification of these heroes is Jinty Adamson, grieving for her dead brother, but who had been his family, his rock on whom he could depend during his disparate life. In many ways a rehashing of 'Laidlaw' but an engrossing read, and it's literary subtleties transcend the police procedural plot.