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For the wealthy residents of Westcliffe the 1930s depression is just a blip on their cosy horizon. For those unaffected and uncaring life is nothing but a continuous round of pleasure. The most dominant families are the Westerners and the Mayfields. And some members of the Mayfield line are more than happy to benefit from those suffering the effects of the slump.But one young member of the Mayfield clan, Ben Appleton, is more discerning when considering the plight of the underprivileged. Often reviled and neglected in a house devoid of human warmth, Ben yearns for the love of a normal family. For a while his only friend is Tommy Woo, a Chinaman running a curio shop and laundry. By chance one day, he comes under the tutelage of librarian Miss Eleanor Whitaker, an elderly spinster, and subsequently develops an independent and caring view of the world, despite the evil in his midst. When he learns that several members of his family are estranged and discovers that his grandfather was murdered, he sets out to catch up on his family’s history. Then, after an eventful eight years and while nations prepare for war, Ben remembers the unsolved mysteries of his early days. He has never forgotten his childhood aim: to unmask the killer of George Mayfield and see him punished. But there are those who would murder him to keep their secrets.

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