Jacqueline Jacques is a primary school teacher and the author of the novels "Skin Deep," "Someone to Watch Over Me," and "Wrong Way Up."
Archie Price, an artist, supplements the meagre income he receives from the selling of his paintings by sketching Identikits for the police in London. He is called in by the police when a fire has destroyed a furniture shop in which the proprietor is found dead from a gunshot wound, and a young, impoverished cleaning woman is believed to be a witness to a suspect. Archie finds himself obsessed by the young Irish widows pallid skin, a wraithlike transparency that would challenge Rembrandt. Jacques as usual excels with her torrid power of description. He wanted her for his new-found realism, a portrait of Mary Quinn lying on a dirty straw pallet where fleas hopped and bedbugs bit. He saw a drunken husband and filthy children. He had to get her to agree to sit for him which she eventually does. A private buyer comes to his studio, a man called Streeter for whom money is apparently no object. He misconstrues Archies composition. This is what she is, a tasty little drab, put on earth to save us men from torment and our wives from harm. Archie sells Streeter the painting, which then leaves him remorseful and repulsed. Mary herself is horrified when she hears who has the painting and wants to meet her in the flesh, for she knows where Streeters wealth comes from. Archie attends a party thrown by Streeter in his new mansion, and sees and hears far more than is good for him. Learning that Streeter wants to acquire Mary, he asks his friends the Kingstons to take her into their home as a domestic. Already having witnessed more violence than he would have wished, John Kingston realises the dangers that could unfold and indeed do within the 312 pages of this nail-biting page-turner that takes the reader from the grandeur of the wealthy to the extremities of poverty and corruption during the last decade of Queen Victorias reign. Norma Penfold It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgment should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council. Gellir defnyddio'r adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiatd Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru. -- Welsh Books Council