As film critic of 'The Guardian' for many years, Derek Malcolm writes: "No film I ever saw was any more dramatic than the story of my parents, whose marriage was so soon overtaken by a tragedy that received huge publicity, and effectively destroyed the happiness of both."
'Some people's secrets should never be told. The secret, though, that surrounded my parents' unhappy life together, was divulged to me by accident.'
Hidden under some papers in his father's bureau, the sixteen-year-old Derek Malcolm finds a book called 'The Judges And The Damned'. Browsing through the Contents pages Derek reads: 'Mr Justice tries Lieutenant Malcolm - page 33.' But there is no page 33. The whole chapter has been ripped out of the book.
It turns out that Derek's father killed his mother's lover, and, unique in British legal history, was acquitted (although guilty) on the grounds that this was a "crime passionel".
After his father's death, Derek receives a postcard from his Aunt Phylis, which informs him, rather baldly, that his real father was the Italian Ambassador to London.
By turns laconic and affectionate, Derek Malcolm has written a richly evocative memoir of a family sinking into hopeless disrepair.