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Another queasy m‚lange of a novel by British writer Street, author of The Timeless Moment (1988), this one about four unexuberant souls whose lives are muddled by an eccentrically designed will. A drafty Victorian manse in Richmond called Crane Lodge, chock-full of exotic booty collected by the late explorer, Sir Reginald Rayner, composes the estate in question. When the once-beautiful Gloria Rayner, Sir Reginald's wife, finally puts an end to her sad melt into old age, her will dictates that the Lodge should be auctioned off--with the proceeds divided among her son, Bernard; daughter, Joanna; longtime lover, Herbert Fane; and faithful retainer, Mildred Treadgold. If a beneficiary dies, then his or her share gets divvied up among the remaining three--which doesn't please avaricious Bernard a bit, since he wants as much as he can get immediately to support his whining wife, Felicity, and hedonistic, claret-saturated life-style. Meanwhile, Joanna wishes she'd never heard about the legacy, since she's always suspected that her boyfriend loves her for her prospects above all; and Mildred and Herbert are simply too old to care about inheritances. Of course, along with elephant tusks and native totems, the trunks in the attic of Crane Lodge yield certain discoveries. But in the end, it hardly matters, because all the beneficiaries die unmysterious deaths, leaving the loot to Bernard's stepson and Crane Lodge to become an old folks' home. There may have been a decent mystery story lurking in the bare bones of the plot, but Street hasn't flushed it out, settling instead for a character study of a group of people who can't support--and thus don't deserve--it.

Pub Date: Feb. 20th, 1989
Publisher: St. Martin's