Set against the violently fragmented matrix of Detroit in 1973, Dobyns' novel is an unlikely fusion of love and violence. The plot centers around the lives of fifteen people-and three dogs-who live in a Cass Corridor rooming house. When an innocent Ontario farm boy comes to Detroit in search of his runaway sister, he provides a temporary focus for the other residents. They include a bartender/writer, an avant-garde composer and his wife, a former policeman, a female artist whose rent is being paid by two men, and a pair of elderly ex-convicts-one a panhandler, the other a locksmith.
Robbery, murder, a stabbing, a poisoning, and a fire serve to bring about a profound emotional transformation among the characters. Against this hostile urban landscape, Dobyns weaves his extrordinary human tapestry. By the novel's close, the housemates "unite" to form a rich though volatile world.