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by Ruth Rendell
Vintage Books, October 2002
355 pages
ISBN: 0375724842

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In HARM DONE, Ruth Rendell brings back the fictional English town of Kinsmarkham and her lead detective Chief Inspector Wexford. The author takes the unusual step in layering a crime with another crime followed by another one. None of the crimes in this book takes center stage in this book. It is almost like a collection of short stories was brought together for this book. It might work for some people; short stories would have been preferable.

At the beginning of the book teenager Lizzie Cromwell has gone missing and everyone fears the worst. The police are called in to investigate when a few days later Lizzie returns to her home under her own power. She has no recollection as to what happened and what little she remembers she gives the cops leaving them a bit incredulous. Later in the book we learn about Henry Thomas Orbe who has finally been released from prison for the murder of a juvenile. When a second teenager disappears as well as a baby, the natives of Kingsmarkham jump to conclusions and start to prepare a lynch mob in a feeling of vigilante justice. The story will then conclude with the investigation of the murder of one of the parents of a missing child. The case is pretty straightforward with no big surprises at the end.

This book is mostly a character study in the lives of the people in this small English town instead of a regular mystery or police procedural. Rendell shows her strength in this book by developing the players involved, but with all the intersecting subplots the story gets to be a bit confusing. It is not a good book to get introduced to Wexford and his friends. There are probably better Ruth Rendell novels out there.

Reviewed by Angel L. Soto, November 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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