Why does Nicholas Carradine, a painter -- emotionally and artistically immobilized -- always paint little girls or slightly older versions thereof? What happened to his half-sister Odette, via the glamorous Gabrielle who claimed ""the child died as I live, by fire""? Was she really burned to death in a railway carriage? Still brooding, years later, Nicholas hires the steady-on ex-Inspector John Lintott to try and find Odette whom he still believes to be alive in France. Is she one of the two coquettes-cocottes Nicholas meets over there, presumably sisters out of an orphanage? And what is there to go on -- a diary, a bracelet, a singed doll, or the final admission of an old nurse? Ephemera -- tinted and scented as a pastille -- for those who enjoyed an earlier Victorian mystery romance -- Dear Laura -- and then forgot.