Well!--the reader unaware that Catherine Marchant is none other than that indispensable cicerone of the scullery, Catherine Cookson, may wonder how any new hand could cram at least three crises into a chapter, and sort out every mess in the last few pages with such ease. Among the screaming rows and intermittent violence, towers Mary Martha (Cookson likes double-barreled monikers), eldest daughter of profligate John Crawford who dies and leaves his dastardly doings for M.M. to uncover. Now poverty-stricken, M.M. must handle the family--two flighty sisters, an ill and dotty aunt, and one brother who's a chip off the old blockhead. But the poor gel weathers through and at last finds her counterpart in a tough-minded doctor. It's the kind of tale in which if there's a line at the beginning about how water once reached the top bedrooms, there's bound to be a grand flood by closing time. A Cookson special--noisy as a hen yard when the fox drops in for tea.