cover image Trick of the Eye

Trick of the Eye

Jane Stanton Hitchcock. Dutton Books, $19 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-525-93529-2

A tautly controlled narrative voice and a prose style that transcends genre key the action in this gothic thriller about a successful trompe l'oeil artist commissioned to work at a grand old estate on the North Shore of Long Island. Faith Crowell, a 39-year-old self-described ``spinster,'' is happiest when alone with her thoughts. Her ability to ``paint a variety of illusionary images on any compatible surface'' brings her work to the attention of Frances Griffin, a reclusive widow and fabulously wealthy collector, who wants Faith to repaint the huge ballroom of her mansion, the Haven. Mrs. Griffin reveals that the ballroom was built for the coming-out party of her daughter Cassandra, who was stabbed to death shortly after her marriage. As Faith begins her work, the grisly, unsolved murder comes to haunt her, and she sets about attempting to solve the 15-year-old case with the aid of her friend, Harry Pitt. The Haven, Faith learns, harbors many lurid secrets, not the least of which may be Mrs. Griffin's own connection to the crime. Readers of Hitchcock's well-made tale will enjoy discovering whether this master craftswoman of the art of surfaces will be able to penetrate the moneyed Griffin veneer and locate the shocking truth. (Sept.)