Philip Hayley, a lawyer, the end product of a too attractive mother and a father he had not seen since childhood, looks back very briefly on his own inchoate experience and looks into the life of the father he had scarcely known. In a somewhat disconcerning fashion, this works its way progressively in reverse, beginning with the last days of Alfred Northbrook Hayley and the seedy circumstances in which he found himself; his ten year relationship with Marjorie, a nurse; his marriage to Philip's French mother- Laura- who had perhaps never really loved him; and finally his early beginnings. All in all, this never quite explains the eccentricity, untidiness, dishonesty and atheism (his falling away from the Catholic Church is a part of this) or the folly and fraud to which he descended. This may well be why The Dear Deceit is as exasperating, and tiresome to the reader, as he was to those who knew him and loved him. The title too is something of a giveaway- there's an odd, old-fashioned quality here which is never fully reconciled with the fact that this is a modern novel written by a reasonably young English writer.