Sandra Waters takes on Victorian London in a Dickensian tale beginning when Sue Trinder is left with "baby farmer" Mrs. Stuckly in the lowest of London slums. For some strange reason, the Fagan-like Mrs Stuckly cares for Sue more than the other orphans. Living in the same house is a family of "finger smiths" (petty thieves).

Hoping to repay Mrs. Stuckly for her "kindness," 17-year-old Sue agrees to con man Richard Rivers's (aka The Gentleman) scheme to infiltrate the home of rare book dealer Mr. Lily. Sue is to become Lily's ward and his daughter Maude's maid and enable Rivers to woo the young woman. Once they are wed, Rivers will see Maude institutionalized and he and Sue will have her money.

Problems arise when Sue befriends Maude, thwarting Rivers's plan (which he tells in his own words later in the novel).

The many twists and turns of plot will keep the reader caught in Ms. Waters' web, so that like an unsuspecting fly, they will be stunned when surprising truths and unexpected relationships are revealed.

Ms. Waters is a master at the craft of narrative writing, from not one, but many viewpoints. Combine that skill with her ability to tease the reader along and then stun them with revelations they never see coming, and you have a virtuoso storyteller. (Now available, 750 pp., $24.95)

Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin