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by Ruth Rendell
Vintage Books, October 2003
336 pages
ISBN: 140004930X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Chief Inspector Wexford is faced with what seems to be an impenetrable web of lies when he investigates the disappearance of two teenagers and their baby-sitter. Their parents, away for a weekend in Paris, have invited a friend to stay with the children in their absence. When they return, there is no one at home and the baby-sitter's car is missing.

Since there is no obvious sign of a struggle, Wexford at first assumes that the children and baby-sitter will return within a few hours. When this doesn't happen, and the hours turn into days and then weeks, the investigation becomes more serious.

Wexford suspects the baby-sitter, an all-but-friendless divorcee, has kidnapped the children. But this seems unlikely when one of the missing turns up dead, and the investigation takes a more serious turn as the police race to find the other two.

The children's parents provide little help with the inquiries. The mother is hysterical and the father is a severe man more interested in his business than in finding his missing children. Among the suspects are the sitter's ex-husband who has a history of violence, the yuppie owner of the weekend estate on which the body is found, and members of a cult-like religion in which the missing boy had been active before his disappearance.

The story alternates between Wexford's personal life as he worries about the safety of his home during the torrential rains that are plaguing the area and puzzles over his disappointment with his daughter's choice of boyfriends.

Throughout the story Rendell probes the lies we tell in order to keep our relationships together and the consequences of those lies. Domestic violence and abuse, both physical and psychological, are at the center of this book in which marriages dissolve when secrets are revealed and no home offers a safe haven to its inhabitants.

This is not Rendell's best work, and its leisurely pace is unlikely to keep the reader up at night, but she has crafted an engaging mystery that does not disappoint.

Reviewed by Carroll Johnson, August 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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