Privy to all the juiciest society hostesses’ and politicians’ secrets, aging queen Francis Richmond jots them down in a diary. When he dies, his heir, a greedy boy-toy, sells them to the tabloid News Universal, now on the losing end of a circulation war and hoping the scandals will draw in readers. But Richard Tancred, Minister for Defence Procurement, is not about to go gentle into that good night. He resigns his cabinet post, hires Patrick Foxley, QC, to represent him, and sues, insisting he did not, as the diary implies, accept bribes from businessman Oscar Sleaven while in office. Although hinting he can prove his innocence, Tancred offers Foxley no evidence for ammunition and no explanation of why newspaper tycoon Digby Price seems especially gleeful about exposing him. When the opposing QC, dyspeptic, hunchbacked Mordecai Ledbury, obtains records that show large monthly bank deposits way beyond Tancred’s government income, it seems his case is lost. But wait. Foxley and Ledbury jostle before an unsympathetic judge; Price’s mistress disappears; Tancred’s ex-wife reappears; those society hostesses come to court every day; and there are plot twists aplenty, some but not all of them plausible, before truth is winnowed from gossip and a settlement is reached.
Rawlinson (Indictment for Murder, 2000, etc.) has great fun anglicizing the Answered Prayers antics whereby Truman Capote skewered all his supposed good friends—it’s certainly amusing catching the barristers’ wigs askew—but there’s one bathetic revelation too many here.