The best of Cleeve's recent books, an old-fashioned novel in which the qualifier is becoming less and less a term of opprobium and more and more a source of comfort. The scene is almost-modern Ireland where the Castle of Crannagh, ""so full of history,"" is apparently about to fall into the hands of the English side of the family, the Prentices--""well behaved crows."" Were it not for the intervention of Conor Dwyer--a failed actor-writer and Agent for the Estate--and orphan Mary Falk, a cousin of the Prentices, who's attracted to the past to substitute for the void within her. During the days to follow, Mary, who also has a personal history of imbalance, reads old letters, scrapbooks, etc., in the castle. She time-travels back and forth through almost two hundred years across Spain, India, and the Crimea. Particularly India, where an illicit liaison has produced a ""senior branch"" of the family tree--""black chancers."" Dark shades of Kipling, but that was the era. The novel is concluded by a sad whim of fate but it will have been validated by the right kind of romanticism and tempered with some realism however distant from the terrorist petrol bombs which dot the countryside, since there is very little sense of these current troubles.