The author's Detective Chief Inspector Jack Rudd--who grows ever more dispirited in his unrequited love for pathologist Marion Greve (Shadow of a Doubt, etc.)--this time probes a suspicious death at Howlett Hall in his Chelmsford district. Two old men have died at the Hall on the same night--Howlett's owner Edgar Aston and his boyhood friend Rollo Saxby, who'd made a strenuous, unauthorized journey from his nursing home to see his dying friend and make amends for a quarrel that had estranged the two for years. Also at the Hall are Aston's granddaughter Claudia; his sister Constance with her second husband Teddy and stepson Basil: and longtime housekeeper Edie Cole, whose wayward nephew Colin helped care for the invalid. Robert Callender, Aston's doctor, is in the throes of instant attraction to Claudia, who--on going to break the news of her grandfather's death to Saxby--found him dead in circumstances odd enough to justify calling in Rudd, at the moment half-heartedly engaged in trying to find Hal Dixon, vanished brother of aged but feisty Kitty Laud. There will be another victim, much tedious family history, and vapid conversation--all at a pace more lethargic than leisurely--before the long, complex, and just barely credible final exposition. Not the liveliest of outings for Thomson, but tolerable for ardent fans of the British Traditional.