An Australian whose psychological suspense novels are appearing in the US some thirty-plus years after their original publication, Patricia Carlon, like Ruth Rendell, is a master of tense, claustrophobic suspense. The sixth to be published here, "The Unquiet Night" focuses on a woman and child in the wrong place at the wrong time.
A young man, Mart, strangles a disrespectful pick-up date and dumps her body in the lake at a nature reserve. Leaving, he spies a woman with a playing child. Their eyes meet.
Putting the nervous fellow from her mind, Rachel Penghill takes her niece home, her mind on her unhappy love life and her new business, unaware she has panicked a killer who is now feverishly tracking her.
Point of view shifts primarily between Rachel and her stalker but also encompasses other players - the mother spooked by a strange man's phone call to her nine-year-old daughter, the radio newsman determined to protect Rachel from involvement in his uncertain prospects, the policeman jaded by human nature. Tension mounts as luck, weather and circumstance form a suspenseful counterpoint to the killer's cold-blooded deviousness, culminating in an agonizing, protracted climax.
This is classic Carlon - a compact, sparely written story with well-drawn characters. Rachel is appealing and resourceful while the killer is deeply chilling yet pitiful.