In a real conflict, technique doesn't count. At this juncture the narrator of THE STRANGERS AND BROTHERS series is about fifty-eight. Lewis Eliot takes his son Charles to the provincial town of his birth, Sawbridge, a place he left nearly forty years earlier. They visit Lewis's father.
Francis Getliffe's talented son Leonard is a professor at the new university in Sawbridge. Lewis seeks an interview with the Vice-Chancellor, Arnold Shaw, concerning his position in a case against four students he has dismissed for misconduct. The matter is being appealed to the board of trustees and Lewis thinks that in order to safe-guard his own position in the institution Arnold Shaw should lighten up on the penalty. Although Shaw refuses to yield, the trustees postpone their decision in order for the professors to work to find other universities for the students to attend.
In Sawbridge Lewis encounters the mentor of his youth, George Passant, who is now a sick old man. Thematic concerns of this work center on the relationships of parents and their grown children. The notion is teased out that any realistic grown-up person comes inevitably to believe in luck as careers advance on positive paths. Variations of the theme are presented in the story of Lewis's father-in-law, dying, who, in fact, has little paternal feeling, and refers to Lewis's son Charles, as Carlo. The dying man recalls his own university years. He had been a member of a secret society, the Apostles, (Maynard Keynes, Lytton Strachey et al.).
Lewis attends another meeting on Arnold Shaw's behalf, really an academic convocation, (he had promised Shaw's daughter he would attend), with a detached retina. Francis Getliffe is shocked he is jeopardizing his health. Lewis's wife Margaret is loyal to a fault, (her filial feelings toward her father are portrayed), and in this respect her character has come to dominate his own.
In this novel the author seems to be drawing upon the circumstances of William Empson in the 1930's who was struck from the university rolls for his alleged misconduct and the Moor Murders, so-called, an entirely different matter. All of the characters are linked loosely through the university and the town of Sawbridge. The second-named situation concerns a niece of George Passant and the sister of one of the suspended students.
In the STRANGERS AND BROTHERS series all of the novels have psychological moments, but this one spotlights, among other things, abnormal and forensic psychology.