Phil and George are brothers, more than partners, joint owners of the biggest ranch in their Montana valley. Phil is the bright one, George the plodder. Phil Is tall and angular; George is stocky and silent. Phil is a brilliant chess player, a voracious reader, an eloquent storyteller; George learns slowly, and devotes himself to the business. Phil is a vicious sadist, with a seething contempt for weakness to match his thirst for dominance; George has a gentle, loving soul. They sleep in the room they shared as boys, and so it has been for forty years. When George unexpectedly marries a young widow and brings her to live at the ranch, Phil begins a relentless campaign to destroy his brother's new wife. But he reckons without an unlikely protector.