The perfect victim: Sir Oliver Fairleigh-Stubbs, writer of detective stories, a sadistic, self-infatuated snob with an aristocratically forebearing wife, a drunken elder son, a thoroughly nasty second son, and a beautiful, calculating daughter. Suspects galore--plus a smarmy butler and a colorless secretary to round out the household at Wycherly Court, the setting for Barnard's fresh, breezy reworking of the body-in-the-library motif. Sir Oliver is poisoned at his annual birthday celebration attended by his children and a neighboring couple--gentry no longer landed and with no cause to love their host. But a missing manuscript leads Inspector Meredith, Welsh and wily, to a search backward in time and wider in scope than the near-at-hand glut of suspects. Sir Oliver is so robustly, vitally hateful that the story sags ever so slightly after his removal from the scene; but the denouement is neat, the pace brisk, and the satisfaction almost total--proof positive, once again, that the Olde English Detective Story can still, in the right hands, be an un-dusty delight.