A first novel about the frenetic amours--and losses--in the life of a generally privileged English woman who died in her 80s. The broody, love-struck investigator is her former son-in-law. Charlotte Seymour, in her last days, had charged Guy Horton, now divorced from her daughter Beth, with the responsibility of acting as "a sort of literary executor." The record of her very messy life is contained in a trunkful of diaries, mementos and photographs, intermittently chronicling drifts and dashes through three marriages and a consuming love affair. Together with Sophia, one of Charlotte's five children (three survive), Guy reviews the marriages: one to an Old School Tie; one to a younger actor, and the last to the not too unhappy widower George, a sure mistake. Then there was the passionate affair with the son of a poet--the poet hunted and killed by police, with the child Charlotte as witness. Meanwhile, images of Charlotte's parents are called forth: charming, womanizing Dick; and strong-minded Constance, faintly malicious, not averse to a lusty love affair. Was Charlotte herself a destroyer? (Sophia: "If you found yourself the recipient of Mum's undivided love and attention you were in big trouble"). But to Guy, who used to burst into burning passion for Charlotte--who could fling out sparks even in her sunset years--she was the "eternal Alice" with no sense of how to behave like a grown-up; she had a kind of "desperate brightness" of someone who had everything--and nothing. Although Charlotte's a bit dim--in spite of all the moody, somewhat flossy groping through her life--this gossipy pop through upper-middle English decades is mild and easy entertainment.