I've just re read this book, published in 1993 and I was very pleased that I did. One of those gobble it all up in one session, carry it around with you, mysteries that Ruth Rendell is so expert at producing, "Kissing the Gunner's daughter" kept me enthralled for a couple of days.
Good old Wexford, with all his human frailties, has you on his side from the start, Burden is there for the contrast and sober good sense; the story roars away with the shooting of a genial policeman who was innocently visiting the bank for his day out cash. He was no cipher, already we felt we knew him well, and that is what RR excels at. Everyone rings true, she knows her characters, even the walk on ones are never cardboard. Things go from bad to worse and lo and behold there is a massacre at The Big House.
Initially Wexford is enchanted by the youthful survivor Daisy. Domestically he is struggling with the problem of an excruciatingly awful boyfriend of his beloved actress daughter Sheila who is threatening to bear her off to the USA. There is always such a generous, involving back story with RR that her crime mysteries could stand alone as novels.
The grisly murder room that is discovered by Kingsmarkham police in response to a 999 call couldn't be more shocking. The blood soaked tablecloth, the detritus of a cruelly interrupted last supper, ghastly carnage, it all belongs in the Chamber of Horrors.
How, who and why - diversions, blind alleys and red herrings all abound. Wexford goes about his detection by quirky routes that are nevertheless eventually effective. A holistic approach to a criminal act is required. As with all the best crime stories, there is an explanation and it's not that outrageous really, just not what you might have imagined. Great value reading.