The chronicle of a family tyrannized by a fierce father with a terrible secret--in another of Rae's appealing and intriguing family tales (Afterward, 1992; Sarah Cobb, 1990, etc.) set in old New York, here from 1812 to 1885. The ship's clock--a model of a 16th-century ship with a deckful of tiny wooden figures moving to mark the hours--was in Hamburg, Germany, in 1810, when Philip Mesner, in a rage at his dictatorial shipping-magnate father, stole it--dear as it was to his sire's iron heart. Then Philip emerges on New York shores not as Philip Mesner, ready to work in the family's shipping office, but as ``John Ferguson.'' By 1812, his fiancÇe has arrived, and ``John'' is on the way to success. Children are born and, as adults, will tell their stories. Meanwhile, through years in which Father's fortunes rise, fall and rise again, all are witness to his puzzling change of temperament. Later, his continual rage seemed to have begun the day that nice, kind Tim Ferguson came around looking for the brother who had wronged him. One after another, the children leave the house: gentle Ellen, who marries the son of Tim Ferguson; Robert, a banker; Jay, a doctor; Paul, an architect; and Annette, who marries a French artist. It is Mother who, on her deathbed, says something about the ship's clock and a curse--and certainly with the parade of city riots, deaths in the war, sickness, and Father's madness (he's given to lethal swipes with a cane), it seems there must be a curse indeed. Finally, one of Father's grandchildren, after his death, unravels the mystery. Rae's Gotham-in-transition is a stimulating yet comfortable place: an engaging, leisurely tale with a gently prickling mystery.