A British Bad Seed--as slowly, unwillingly unearthed by narrator Hamish Oath, who looks out his window one day to see his best friend's wife fall out of her upper-story window while watering plants in an elaborate window box (""Like something out of Monty Python;"" remarks one of the two insult-comic policemen on the case). Writer-swinger Hamish mourns this death not at all, since the late, loud Mrs. Dance was ""the worst kind of bullying Irish mother figure. . . . She keened readily?' But he cares deeply for his pasty friend Dance and for Dance's children, 14-year-old Patty and little brother Mark, so he begins helping and hanging around the Dance household more than ever--protecting them from those ubiquitous, Pinteresque coppers (who wonder if Mr. Dance gave Mrs, D. a shove), accompanying the family on a weekend escape of roughing-it in the country. And soon Patty, always quick and direct and sharp, starts acting rather strangely, strangely like her megalomaniac Mum--a few cruel jibes, few seductive leers Ã la Lolita--so Hamish is disturbed, puzzled, alienated. And, finally but inconclusively, suspicious. Durrant has appropriated a classic, hand-me-down. plot, but he gives Hamish a dandy ugly streak to go along with his tart delivery, and the ghoulish dialogue exchanges with the cops are superb. A tiny triumph of tone--English modern and wryly creepy.