I'm a great fan of Ruth Rendell's, but have struggled with most of her recent offerings, and this latest one struck me as terribly lame, especially if you've read its prequel, 'A Sight for Sore Eyes'. Where's the pleasure in reading 200 pages of implausible investigation about three bodies whose deaths you already know everything about, and then just 60 devoted to the fourth murder, whose perpetrator has been referred to so little that it's hard to feel anything on disclosure?
This one is at least better written than most of her others of late, but it's riddled with flaws. The blame lies with her publishers, of course, who are like all the rest in the trade, in not giving a monkey's about the quality of the books they publish so long as they sell - another example of the contempt with which big-business-people treat the customers who pay their wages.
Some of the problems that should have been picked up by the proofreader or copy editor:
* If Wexford has been thinking constantly about this man they believe was called Keith HILL, and then comes across a Francine HILL, why does it take him two days to realise that she could be the Francine they're looking for? Not what you'd expect of an experienced policeman with a functioning memory, is it?
* Lucy Blanch is a young London cop, and she doesn't know what "to take a butcher's" means? Come off it.
* Martin Rokeby is devastated by the loss in value of his home caused by the bodies found in the 'vault', but then decides he's keen to go ahead with his original plan to develop it into an underground room. Aside from the psychological unlikeliness of this (a rare lapse for Rendell), he would have to be mad to do so. Who would buy a house with an underground room in which four bodies had been found?
* Tom Ede could never have gained the status of a detective superintendent by displaying the kind of incompetence and disregard for procedures that he does. Just ridiculous.
* Wexford says he hasn't ever sent an email before the one in this novel. And he was a senior policeman during the past few decades?
* And here's the proof, if you need it, that her publishers can't be bothered with proofreading: on page 161 she refers to a 'flyover' being posted through a letter-box, instead of a flyer. Funny, but also depressing.
Surely Ruth Rendell is so powerful and wealthy that she could risk saying to her publisher: If you don't do your job with the editing, I'll take my books elsewhere.
Anyway, in summary, this book is readable and mildly entertaining, but a poor sequel to 'A Sight for Sore Eyes', which is vintage Rendell. I strongly recommended you read that, and don't bother with this one.