An author who frequently explores tormented psyches (Nursery Crimes, etc.) now has a field day with the character of 35-year-old Lowell Marshall--an already famous concert: pianist recently stopped in his tracks by arthritis of the hands as he neared the pinnacle of his profession. A year later, Marshall abruptly leaves the job he hates--selling pianos for a friend of his sympathetic uncle Sir Howard Bentham. Dependent on his cool, practical dentist-wife Zoe, and troubled by the murderous rage evoked by his recent employer, Marshall is in deep misery--until the day he and Zoe drive into the countryside to see the cottage willed to him by a practically unknown aunt. It's tiny, dirty, primitive, and badly located, but Marshall feels an immediate kinship with the place. His wife finds it repellent. Their relationship, already near breaking point, grows ever more distant. Meanwhile, he moves in completely after becoming enchanted by the century-old photograph of a young woman he finds in the cottage's ancient worm-eaten piano. Then, with the appearance on the scene of teen-aged Rose, granddaughter and ward of Colonel Ballater, who owns farmland bordering the cottage, Marshall's obsession finds a real object--with ominous overtones for the future. There are some awkward plot contrivances here, but Marshall's story, with its psychological probing and eerie atmosphere, is engrossing to the end. Gill's most potent and polished work to date.