A sleekly overstuffed period thriller (England, 1923-24) setting failed architect Geoffrey Staddon the job of making up for having seduced and abandoned Brazilian beauty Consuela Caswell, his first important client's wife, a dozen years before, by getting her off from the charge of having poisoned her niece Rosemary while trying to kill her hated husband Victor. As he outlines the airtight case against Consuela, Staddon interrupts himself to recall happier times before he threw her over to avoid losing the commission to design the London hotel that marked the beginning of his premature professional and personal decline--the hotel was destroyed in the war, and Staddon married his client's narcissistic daughter Angela. Called to action by Consuela's young daughter (and maybe his own), Jacinta, Staddon runs up to mellow Clouds Frome in Victor's absence, barges in on the domestic staff, antagonizes Rosemary's retiring father Mortimer and malevolent brother Spencer, and contrives a meeting with Victor at Cap Ferrat just in time to allow Victor's scoundrelly friend Major Royston Turnbull to seduce Rosemary. From that point on it's a story all too familiar to readers of Goddard's Painting the Darkness (1989), as Staddon's determination to clear Consuela's name (although she's forbidden him even to visit her in prison) leads him to lose everything he's taken for granted--his wife, his home, his peace of mind (he'll discover that Victor knew about his affair from the beginning), and eventually his freedom, as he's threatened with jail for theft (a break-in to Clouds Frome with the help of Consuela's penny-dreadful brother Rodrigo) and homicide (as somebody finally succeeds in poisoning Victor)--all served up in a heady brew of legal maneuvering, midnight assignations, wicked servants, domestic conspiracies, and plummy prose (``To lose Consuela or to sacrifice fame. Each chalice was poisoned, each decision foredoomed''). Irresistible hokum.