Philosophical suspense from Dibdin (The Last Sherlock Holmes Story, 1978; Ratking, 1989--not reviewed): an unsettling, disturbing amalgam of crosscut story lines, each seemingly contradictory yet relentlessly leading toward death--and all anchored by a past love of psychologist Aileen Macklin; her current patient, teen-aged runaway Gary Dunn (a.k.a. Steven Bradley); and the demise of recluse Ernest Matthews, Gary/Steven's benefactor. Why does Gary insist that only hospitalization will rove his life and even bones up on schizophrenic responses to insure it? Aileen's not sure, but by releasing him she sets in motion his adoption by a squalid street-gang, his eventual ""adoption"" by old Matthews--whose war-story reminiscences have a horrific ending--and triggers within herself memories of the lover who left her, and now remind her of the boy Gary (while she and her husband continue to torture each other intrapsychically across the breakfast table). Eventually, the street gang kills Matthews; but Gary insists that it was the dreaded ""Hazchem"" of the war story who were responsible--and who are now after him. As the situation wafts between then and now, between fancy and fact, Aileen gropes for what is real and--depending on your interpretation--either finds it or not by confronting her childhood. . .before succumbing to an authorial flight of fancy. An unusual, multileveled story, though some readers may be put off by Dibdin's supernatural payoff after so much realistic narrative (social-service runarounds, scenes of London squatter life, etc.). By no means an easy read, and perhaps best suited for those who can handle psychological rabbit punches.