Binet's mad mother has come to stay. A death in the family precipitates a series of intertwined events, and a sense of guilt and yearning. A sense that is strongly identified with a collage in a hospital ward - the tree of hands.
Once when Benet was about fourteen she and her mother had been alone in a train carriage – and Mopsa had tried to stab her with a carving knife.
It was some time since Benet had seen her mad mother. So when Mopsa arrived at the airport looking drab and colourless in a dowdy grey suit, Benet tried not to hate her.
But then the tragic death of a child begins a chain of deception, kidnap and murder…
"The Web is spun with fiendish skill"
Mopsa's daughter Benet is a bestselling author with a little boy, James. When James dies from a breathing disorder Mopsa takes it into her irrational head to abduct a child as a substitute for him. At first Benet is appalled, but as the days go past she finds herself growing more and more attached to the little boy, Jason, whom she gradually suspects has been physically abused by his real mother, Carol Stratford. The story moves backwards and forwards from Benet's life to Carol's, and also, along the way, looking in at that of Terry Wand, an ex-boyfriend of Carol's, who is up to some pretty shady dealing of his own.
This is an immensely clever story, and Rendell writes with a clear, refreshingly unsentimental eye. She wastes little sympathy on Carol, who is shown to be an amoral woman completely uninterested in her own children. She isn't even aware Jason is missing until about 2 days later! Little Jason himself isn't simply a stock toddler character, but to very much have a personality of his own.
There is a happy ending, although a lot of the characters do come to a sticky end.Read more ›
apart from that it is a great novel, with plenty of opportunities for the reader to think they have it all figured out, only to realise they have no idea!! the characters are very believable, which isn't always a pleasant thing. they are real, selfish, manipulative, guilt-ridden, trying their best, honest, decent...the full range really!
the book starts with a happy beginning and gets progressively worse - like a good crime thriller should. it took me a bit to get into it, but once i was hooked i stayed up all night until the end.
this was the first (believe it or not) rendell book i read, and i now plan on reading many more.
But now Mopsa has to return to England, to undergo some final assessments at the hospital where she was treated, and she is going to stay with her daughter, who constantly has to remind herself not to hate her mother who was, after all, mentally ill. This, then, is the set-up for Rendell’s CWA Dagger-winning novel. And it is a set-up that leads to a violent chain of assault, deception, the kidnap of a child, and, finally, murder.
I normally end up saying mostly the same things about Rendell’s brilliant books. Brilliant character, deadly psychology, complex, skilful plotting, fearful atmosphere, etc etc etc. This, I suppose, may give the impression that Rendell’s books are all rather similar, but that is not so at all. They are all, every one of them, different and original and exquisite pieces of fiction. However, it is those factors (darkness, psychological brilliance, piercing character and social insight, seamless plotting) which unite her works undoubtedly. Each novel brings a different twist to the “formula” (I use quotation marks because there is actually no real formula for anything Rendell does), though, and each one sparkles.
The Tree of Hands is another excellent book from Rendell. It seems often that she can do no wrong, and I get sick of saying “another brilliant book by Rendell”, but there is little else one CAN say when all an author’s books are uniformly excellent.Read more ›