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by Jane Jakeman
Berkley, March 2004
368 pages
ISBN: 0425195120

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

London's winter of 1900 is bitterly cold and miserable. Fogs and smogs cover the landscape daily. The great Impressionist painter, Claude Monet is in London, together with his son Michel. Monet is attempting to paint various moods of the Thames from the balcony of his suite at the Savoy Hotel.

Every day starts with a new canvas, but the master is having problems finishing any of them. At the age of 60 he has become very introspective and keeps thinking about his earlier years, especially those with his deceased wife, Camille. Dead for over 20 years, Camille, mother of his two sons and his frequent model, haunts him still.

While Monet broods and paints, his son Michel enjoys London's sights and meeting new people. He befriends a young man, Oliver Craston, a very junior clerk at the Foreign Office. Oliver has had a terrible shock. He found a woman's body in the water of the Thames. After being questioned by the police, who seem briefly to suspect him of the murder, Oliver welcomes the attentions of his new friend who whisks him off to the Savoy where they have tea in Monet's suite, and where he meets the delectable Rosa.

Will Garrety is the officer assigned to the woman's murder and to the investigation of the second body to surface. Garrety and his wife are new in London where he is attempting to start over again in the British police forces after leaving Ireland. He, a Protestant and his wife, Aline, a Catholic, married against their families' wishes and moved to London to make a complete break. Will is a good policeman and while he does not really suspect Oliver, he wants to keep an eye on him. Besides he believes there is something strange happening at the Savoy Hotel, where the top two floors have been turned over to wounded army officers home from the Boer War.

There is a lot going on in this book. Monet himself only peripherally mingles with any of the cast of characters. Oliver gets himself more involved in the events of the murders simply by being in the vicinity so often. The police are understandably nervous about another serial killer of women so soon after the Ripper.

The author, a journalist and art historian, factually places Monet and Michel in London at the proper time. The other characters are inventions of her imagination. The grey gloom of the weather, the constant icy wind and snow are characters as surely as any of the people. Keeping the cast of characters straight, as well as the several storylines, are enough to keep the diligent reader on their toes, but well worth the effort. They are all unforgettable.

Reviewed by Lorraine Gelly, March 2004

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