Books: A Crime of Weakness

MIST ON THE WATERS (250 pp.)—F. L. Green—Harcourt, Brace ($2.75).

F. L. Green is an English novelist (Odd Man Out; A Flask for the Journey) with a special knack for portraying the terrors of obscure city people. His aim: to steer a middle course between the bloodstained thriller and the bloodless novel of ideas. His latest novel achieves it. Mist on the Waters is a taut telling of a crime of weakness, and of the forces it releases in the lives of its perpetrators.

Barty Fingal, a stringy bit of town scum, and his pal Pelancey, a handsome but dim-witted giant, find a...