Prolific, erratic veteran Ferrars is at less than her best in this story of the Cosgrove family. Freda, who narrates, is two years married to writer Peter Cosgrove. His stepmother Henrietta lives nearby with his spinster-sister Beryl. Half-brother Martin is a famous actor who rarely visits. But now all the Cosgroves, also including sister Grace and brother Luke, are joining in Henrietta's 80th-birthday party--which is followed by a fire (two valuable paintings are conveniently destroyed), plus the discovery of a skeleton. (Does it date back 20 years to Martin's brief marriage?) And though Henrietta is saved from a fiery death by Beryl's timid suitor Max, house-guest Simon Edge--an impoverished, eccentric painter--is found murdered soon after the fire . . . and then Henrietta dies, of an apparent heart attack. Peter's the sleuth, the culprit is obvious, the people are listless and unlikable: an altogether ho-hum exercise--and distinctly bottom-rung Ferrars.