A faltering from usually reliable melodramatist Goddard (A Debt of Dishonor; Into the Blue, etc.): Charlotte Ladram, mopping up after her elderly Aunt Beatrix's murder, unearths an incredible lode of 50- year-old scandals. Though it looks as if seamy antiquer Colin Fairfax-Vane turned burglar and killed Beatrix Abberley in a struggle over her Tunbridge Ware, Colin's brother Derek manages to persuade Charlie, after the obligatory resistance, that Colin's been framed by somebody who killed Beatrix to keep her from revealing a secret about her brother Tristram--an important poet who died fighting for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. Shortly before her death, it seems, Beatrix dispatched mysterious messages to her nephew Maurice's wife Ursula; to her old crony Lulu Harrington; to an unknown Madame V-- in Paris and a Mrs. Van Something in New York; and to Tristram's old sergeant, Frank Griffith. Ursula insists that her parcel contained only blank paper, but the Griffith letters, supposedly burned unread, turn out to reveal that Beatrix actually wrote the poetry that made Tristram famous--a revelation that provides an obvious murder motive for a suspect much closer to home. Just when Charlie, with the help of Maurice and Tristram's duplicitous biographer Emerson McKitrick, thinks she's plumbed the depths of Beatrix's secret, a kidnapping and another murder make it clear that the parcels conceal still another secret- -which, despite Goddard's protestations, has nothing to do with the authorship of the poems. Under the banner of this second secret a new team--Charlie, Derek, and Frank--emerges to foil the kidnappers in Spain just in time for a ringingly irrelevant final scene back in England. The first half purrs along as expertly as any of Goddard's sturdy upper-class suspensers. He comes a cropper, though, with that second- tier secret and its working out, which lacks even the conviction of ingenuity.