Short Fuse Publishing

The Janus Gate

A page-turner about growing up and facing hidden fears.

Everyone who looks at The Daughters of Edward Darley Boits, the grand-scale painting by John Singer Sargent that hangs in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, is drawn into its mysteries. Who are these four girls, dressed in prim pinafores? Why is the composition so far off balance? Why are two of the girls cloaked so completely in shadows that their “portraits” are little more than ghostly ciphers? Author Douglas Rees explores the complexities of this masterpiece with a psychological thriller that lets Sargent himself tell the story behind the canvas. When one of the girls scratches the words “HELP US” on a scrap of drawing paper, Sargent realizes that he alone has the power to save them. Will the great portraitist paint the girls as they appear—or will he show the reality of their dark, mysterious lives?

“Grade 7 Up–In this rather gothic mystery, Rees introduces readers to a man who is frequently called the greatest American portrait artist. Sargent is the narrator of this eerie and unusual story. Early in his career, he is commissioned to paint Edward Boits four young daughters. But all is not well in the restless household. Iza Boit is known to be eccentric, and Sargent is bemused by her capriciousness and the daughters antipathy toward him. This odd scenario builds slowly and steadily into a macabre tale of spirits, demons, and possession, as the artist tries at first simply to fulfill his commission, then is drawn deeper into the dark mystery. Rees provides plenty of detail and insight into Sargent’s creative process as he paints this dark portrait of the four unhappy sisters. The story and the detailed reproduction of the painting on the book’s jacket are woven together with an atmosphere rich in foreshadowing and dread. Appendices provide an excellent framework for the period in which Sargent painted, including a time line, a brief biographical sketch, and a list of additional resources. Readers should be sufficiently captivated to look up more information about the artist and his work.” — Roxanne Myers Spencer, School Library Journal