Canadian novelist Helwig follows up his least pretentious, most agreeable novel (Jennifer, 1983) with a slight but labored and artsy concoction--all about the nervous breakdown of a CBC radio producer named Dross. Alternating between third-person and first-person fragments of narration, Helwig sketches in the obsessions of this wearisome neurotic--who is staying in his cousin Susan's empty house while recuperating enough to return to work in Toronto. Dross dwells on his affair with a woman, now dead, who left him for someone thinner, more handsome and virile. (""If I knew where you were buried, I would come and fuck the earth. I would fuck the ashes and mix them with my sperm to make a golem, and he would be my revenge."") He stews about the showy American trends of the ""New Men"" at the CBC--away from quiet, serious cultural matters. He broods about a documentary (on the subject of art-forgery) that he never got to finish. He recalls his deserting father, his crazy mother. He has dreams, writes letters, wallows in self-pity. (""Whose touch will cure my spiritual scrofula?"") And then, exploring Susan's historically old house, Dross finds an annotated 17th-century book: evidence, it seems, that King Charles I didn't really die on the scaffold but actually escaped to Canada. So he tries to track down documentary proof to support this theory--going to Virginia, then to England, where the key papers appear to be in the possession of an ancient, dying nobleman. But the search leads only to a sad, implausible little family scandal: ""I looked for a secret life and found a face like my own, racked with lost love. . . I'll never know who wrote the notes in this book. I'll never know why you left me. There is no explanation. Truth is sudden and arbitrary. . . ."" Despite the effortful interlacing of themes: a thin, overwrought montage--unaffecting as a psychological study, unpersuasive as a meditation on love, history, and authenticity.