An early Ruth Rendell novel exhibiting her hallmark mastery of depicting alienated outsiders. Though loosely falling into the category of detective novel the book turns the genre on its head by having the crime and perpetrator revealed in the first few pages. Most of the narrative describes the background to the killings and the personalities involved. The story is a forensic analysis of the social divide between a servant with little education and the privileged family who rely on her to keep their home running smoothly. Resentments and misunderstandings build up until the final explosive confrontation. Ruth Rendell often has characters with extreme behavoural abnormalities, and the servant, Eunice Parchman, certainly falls into this category, but this makes her a powerful central character. An altogether engrossing book.
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