Gently intriguing recollections of a Wiltshire childhood in the 1930's--with a minor mystery that generates lingering guilt until the narrator makes a few present-day discoveries about the past. James Yeo, 53, moody history professor, is recalling--with a mixture of wry nostalgia and faint horror--his childhood days, particularly his relationship with two contrasting father-figures: his irascible, cruel Uncle Hector, master of an impressive rural manse, whose obsession with history (Roman ruins, above all) led to James' occupation; and dashing local poacher Darkie Hurrell, who engendered in James a lifelong love for nature and wildlife, especially birds. Above all, James remembers the haunting incident that brought his feelings about these two men into disturbing juxtaposition: when ""appalling, fascinating' Uncle Hector set out a vicious man-trap to catch poacher Darkie, James angrily, secretly interfered--with unforeseen, seemingly tragic results that were never quite clear to the six-year-old boy. . .and have remained mysterious over the decades. Despite a few other enigmatic elements (the possible role of James' beloved mother, Uncle Hector's shady Boer War past, etc.), first-novelist Treherne--author of The Galapagos Affair--doesn't provide the unraveling layers that make Peter Dickinson's similar memory-puzzles so compelling. Nor does the story ever take on the psychological weight or intensity of many literary childhood-reconstructions. Still, James is a quietly engaging narrator, sometimes (as in his present-day skirmishes in academia) dryly amusing; and though only half-satisfying as psychological mystery, this small reminiscence is an evocative period-piece most of the way through.