When a schoolmate passes a note saying ""Your mother was a whore"" to fourteen-year-old orphan Susan Moore, bright and cheerful Susan determines to find out more about her mother Garnett--hanged for murder eight years before, in 1950. In a routine mystery-gothic, Susan would zippily prove that her mother was innocent; happily, somberly, that's not what happens here. While Susan seeks out the only person who can tell her the whole story, author Winslow (who wrote this offbeat novel before her attractive, more conventional mysteries) chronicles Garnett's crime of passion in a web of interlocking soliloquies--by the cockney murderess herself, her theatrical friends, her well-bred enemies, and (the most distinctive coloration) the stolid prison wardress who watches the trial with growing anger and growing compassion for the hotly maligned accused. The overlapping effects are a trifle labored, a bit contrived, but the varying London voices are well done, and the rather familiar story--infatuated waif used and abandoned by effete playboy--takes on a texture it wouldn't have with a straightforward narration. If Winslow doesn't quite equal Ruth Rendell's assured scalpel touch at anatomies of murder, this is still an engaging hybrid: the lightest shadow of mystery, a slight tug of suspense, and warm, thick slices of character.