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by Natasha Cooper
Minotaur, September 2003
312 pages
ISBN: 0312319363

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Trish Maguire is a barrister in London. She recently discovered her half-brother, David, whose mother had been murdered, and brought him home to live with her. This caused some problems with her lover, George, and these personal problems complicate her life. Meanwhile she has switched from the practice of family law, which she found too emotionally difficult, to commercial law and she is slow to get new clients. The head of her chambers is not too pleased with her, but in spite of that he asks her to do some research for an important friend, Henry Buxford.

The research involves the Gregory Bequest, a number of paintings that had been collected by a Frenchman, Jean-Pierre Gregoire, during World War I; brought to England by his wife, Helen; and never unpacked by either Helen or her son Ivan. Jean-Pierre had disappeared during the war. But finally Ivan, who had had a stroke, decided to open and display them in a small museum. Henry had helped him hire a director, Toby Fullwell. Toby had recently sold one of the paintings for a large sum of money, and Buxford could not figure out why he had sold it. He wanted Trish to discretely find out why. Her investigation leads her into some very strange and dark corners.

Interspersed through the book are vignettes reporting the story of Helen and Jean-Pierre. They give the reader a different angle from which to view the events Trish is researching.

This is well-written and lucid and very easy reading. Nothing pulls the reader out of the story. It seems effortless and the reader becomes immersed in the tale finding it quite enjoyable both on the personal level of Trishıs problems with David and George and on the public level of what is happening at the Gregory Bequest.

The characters are extremely authentic and believable. Trish is a strong woman who is good at her job and yet, from time to time, reverts to the little girl who always wanted the approval of her father. She is dogged and stubborn, sometimes perhaps too much. She wants to give David the emotional support she feels he needs, but is afraid that he will reject her. And she always has to balance Davidıs needs with those of George. George is a demanding man and sometimes quite short with David, expecting him to grow up and forget all his emotional hang-ups and problems. There are moments in the book when I wondered why Trish didnıt just jettison George. It could be a full-time job ministering to his ego.

I enjoy the setting very much. We get a powerful flavor of London as we read this book. Trish lives in Southwark and we can walk with her about the city, across the bridge, to the Inns of the Court. It is almost as good as a personal visit.

The book is well-plotted. It may be more suspense than mystery, but there are some surprises waiting for the reader. And it is interesting to have an introduction to the world of art and collecting and the buying and selling of paintings. I always like to learn a little something from the book I am reading.

All in all, I enjoyed coming back to spend some time with Trish Maguire. This is an intriguing and appealing series. If you have not read any of these books, I would strongly urge you to begin with Creeping Ivy and read them in order.

Reviewed by Sally A. Fellows, November 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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