In Glaister's second skillful, blackly comic gothic-y novel, two neighboring grotesque and touching cuckoos are nudged into eye- bugging public displays. It all takes place in a modest corner of an English city, and, as in Glaister's Honour Thy Father (1991), there's a nasty bit of the past to be exhumed, plus doom on the way, but here there's also considerable warmth and good humor. Eight-year-old Wolfe, unhappy with itchy skin and the name his generally loving, heavily pregnant, hippie mother Petra burdened him with, misses the commune and learns to say ``things are in a state of flux.'' Next door to Wolfe are Olive and nice, grandfatherly Arthur. The pair have been together for years but never married, on principle, as old leftist activists. Olive, once a lush rose of a powerful, sexy magnetism, is now a bubbling mass of confusion and emotive storms within a mound of obesity. Arthur, adoring, cares for this impressive ruin. On the other side of Wolfe's family is ancient Nell, a frenzied nerve of inanity who lives to clean and disinfect. But what to do with her son Rodney, returned after many years (some in jail) and crawling with germs? Before Nell's scouring potential goes off the dial, there'll be a confrontation with Olive--whom Nell has hated since schooldays--at a Guy Fawkes Day bonfire and picnic in Wolfe's yard. Subsidiary fireworks abound, involving a prize cup, a hat with cherries, and a sizzling affair in the long-ago. There'll also be treats for Wolfe, dirty, dirty tricks, two deaths, and, at the close, a massive final cleansing boom. Glaister snaps her old birds in midflight in witty flashes: As nervous Nell awaits visitors on Halloween, ``her knees are locked together and her ears are on stalks.'' In all: a cool, sure, bright entertainment.