Can this be the same Derek Marlowe who turned such elegant mandarin ironies in A Dandy in Aspic and Nightshade? It hardly seems possible--because this is a muddled, seemingly pointless tale with none of the customary Marlowe shine or focus. Freddie Geddes is the Jewish boy of the title; he knows Leopold & Loeb before the famous murder, he marries an English blueblood shiksa, Cissie, against his father's wishes, and he remains faithful to her and ever richer for a long time. But Cissie's running-around on him finally pains him sore; his eye wanders and suddenly he's in love with Zinny Davenant, half his age. Apparently aware of how thin this primary story is, Marlowe counterpoints it--to no great effect--with the slightly more characteristic life history of Henry Bax: English and poor-born, without any of Freddie's advantages, Bax works himself up (by sponging off the rich, mostly) into the experienced position of being a wealthy spy-novelist whose particular area of expertise is the Kim Philby-ish career of one Giles Lambert, once a friend of Freddie Geddes. Neither of these two parallel, mildly intertwined lives has the seductive allure of Marlowe's previous social satires; nor does the contrast between them provide any but the most obvious ironies. And the sprawling time frame--from the Twenties to the Sixties--hardly suits Marlowe's essentially miniaturist style, which is also dwarfed by the historical moments touched upon here and there. The page-by-page prose is as neatly crusty as ever, but mostly Marlowe seems bored here, flicking out events and place names with no apparent design in mind. Disappointing, idle work from a past entertainer.