Never before published in the US, this splendid novel of manners by the prolific former barrister first saw print in his native England back in 1953. Time has done no harm to a fiction born of narrative intrigue and an impeccable prose style. Staid and sober Christopher Kennet, a solicitor for 30 years, surprises everyone, including himself, when his profligate son involves him in a shady bit of wheeling and dealing. Young Kit, restless and uncertain of his father's love, exploits a family connection to a gin-addled grande dame, Hester Hume-Monument, a good and generous widow given to mooning over her dead son. While her greedy heirs worry about her estate, the old woman allows Kit, who reminds her of her beloved Gerry, to appropriate funds managed by his father. Of course, Kit doesn't tell her the money will capitalize an illegal sale of weapons, surplus meant to be destroyed after the war. With the help of a corrupt and boorish politician--and a truly sleazy character named Katz--the deal is planned. But everything is thrown askew when Mrs. Hume-Monument dies in a car wreck. In the interim, Kennet pÃ‰re, a man who ""favored the realistic, the masculine, and the mundane,"" decides to uncover the mysterious behavior of his disaffected son. His search takes the clubbable gent far from his world of habit and routine, into a demimonde of hustlers and whores, and into the amis of Kit's beautiful young landlady. It turns out that behind the stodgy, unruffled exterior of the unhappily married solicitor lurks a man of passion, a man willing to give up everything for a son he finds ruthless and self-serving. And only in death does Kennet gain his reckless child's admiration. Peopled with a vast array of fully realized types--a witty and bibulous poet-panderer, a haggard and faithless vicar, a dim and uncaring psychiatrist--this well-made novel maintains a modest and sensible insight: ""The present is the enemy of the past and fights it endlessly."" And any victories most often prove Pyrrhic.