Dramatist Stanton's first novel is a thoroughly satisfying thriller--simultaneously luscious and ladylike as it traces the cat-and-mouse relationship between a wealthy old New York dowager and the solitary artist she hires to help re-create her past. Faith Crowell is nearly 40 and feels--with some relief, some regret--that she's now safely past the age of passion, obsessive love, and unsatisfied longings. Concentrating on contenting herself with a solitary life in Manhattan--complete with cat, comfy apartment, and a successful, if hardly brilliant, career as a specialist in trompe I' oeil--Faith is shocked when grande dame Frances Griffin drops into her studio like an errant comet landing on a desert floor. The primly dressed, sharply opinionated elderly woman has come to ask Crowell, who creates artistic illusions for the very wealthy, to paint the ballroom of her legendary Long Island mansion. Flattered, Faith accepts, despite a reluctance to shut down the rest of her business for the six months that the project will take. She quickly becomes enthralled, however, as she enters the beautiful, marble-floored ballroom, hears the story of its single night of service as the site of Frances's only daughter's debutante ball, learns of the daughter's brutal unsolved murder a few years later, and realizes with an unpleasant jolt that she herself almost exactly resembles the dead girl. As Frances draws a golden net around the unwary artist, Faith begins to wonder uneasily why she was chosen for this project, why her employer seems intent on confiding all her secrets to her, and what, exactly, lies beneath the surface of Frances Griffin's public life. A truly wonderful twist near the end transforms this creation from lively entertainment to gasp-provoking, attention-grabbing imbroglio. Those few among Hitchcock's characters who aren't charming, unusual, and thoroughly likable are certainly overflowing with surprises. Pure pleasure for psychological-suspense fans.