"His life had come to this: save a few deer from the jaws of dogs. He was a small man sent to perform a small task."Howard Elman is a man whose internal landscape is as disordered as his front yard, where native New Hampshire birches mingle with a bullet-riddled washer, abandoned bathroom fixtures, and several junk cars. Howard, anti-hero of this first novel in Ernest Hebert's highly acclaimed Darby series, is a mixture too. Howard's battle against encroaching change symbolizes the class conflict between indigenous Granite Staters scratching out a living and citified immigrants with "college degrees and big bank accounts." Like the winter-weakened deer threatened by the dogs of March -- the normally docile house pets whose instincts arouse them to chase and kill for sport -- Howard, too, is sorely beset.