From a descendant of the Bard of Barchester, a seventh novel (The Men and the Girls, 1993, etc.)--and an upcoming Masterpiece Theatre dramatization--that breathlessly chronicles minor intrigue on a venerable English cathedral close. Though gritty Aldminster and its ancient cathedral are less famous than the lightly disguised Salisbury that Anthony Trollope himself immortalized as Barchester, and though the present story's politics, both temporal and spiritual, are moderated by contemporary realities, the whole still has an old-fashioned feel. Characters, even adolescents--despite references to rock music, anti-nuclear demonstrations, and apartheid--sound like the cast of a 1930s drawing-room drama. Mostly, they are period figures caught up in a quintessentially Old England conflict as Cathedral Dean Hugh Cavendish embarks on a devious scheme to get the money needed to repair his beloved cathedral. His announcement that the choir can no longer be funded by the Cathedral Chapter immediately divides the close, as does his decision to secure more money by selling the choir school headmaster's historic house to the city council, who want to use it as an advisory center. While the Dean plots on, the opposition rallies: Headmaster Alexander Troy, whose wife has temporarily disappeared; Leo Beckford, the talented but idiosyncratic organist and choirmaster; and Ianthe, the Dean's daughter, who has her own reasons for opposing her father. Caught in the middle is young Henry Ashworth, whose sublime voice makes a recording of the choir a bestseller, but whose grandfather is against local funding for the choir and whose mother is in love with Leo. The intrigue will be fast, furious, and only rarely high-minded. A thin and relentlessly quaint there'll-always-be-an-England story: The passion is as tepid as breakfast toast, but scenes of angelic faces singing sweetly in the choir will no doubt play well on TV.