Preparing her defense against a slander suit after she unthinkingly identifies a landed financier as having been a Fifth Columnist during the war, novelist Anne Medlicott--whose sharp, unsparing self-portrait makes her seem a lot like her gifted author- -doesn't realize how dramatically her research will change her knowledge of her family, her oldest friends, and herself. Although the man she slanders is the father of artist Perdita Whitchurch, whom she knew briefly as a student in her school, Anne's most important revelations come from Celia Roget, posted to the Foreign Office in Berlin in 1936. As Celia is drawn into the circle of Baron Hubertus von Beowulf and his sister Marianne following Hitler's p.r. triumph at the Berlin Games, she gradually realizes the peril faced by her parents' old friends the Silberschmidts, who are harassed and arrested as Jews. Celia's school friend Lotte manages to escape the dragnet that scoops up her brother Michael, Celia's first love, and his mother--only to end up stranded with the Berlin underground, while Michael ends up with relatives in Bayswater, where he attempts to marry, raise a family, and return periodically and secretly to Germany, finally vanishing after going back to retrieve Lotte. Celia, meanwhile, is present when the Gestapo arrests Lotte, leaving Celia literally holding the newborn baby she claims Hubertus has fathered, and determining to raise it as her own. The pattern of romantic and political betrayals--and the question of whether Perdita's father really has been a traitor--won't be cleared up until Anne's face-to- face meeting back in 1991 with Celia, who'll confirm the revelations that will neatly close off Anne's investigation while destroying her self-assured certainties and freeing her to create herself anew. Mann--who, like Anne, is best known as the author of a well- received, dispassionate series of detective stories (Faith, Hope and Homicide, etc.)--re-creates herself brilliantly in this mystery/intrigue counterpart to Philip Roth's self-tormenting autobiographical fictions.