The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney
Published in 1979, this was the first Inspector Wexford novel and it seems very dated now with its rather stagey bunch of characters and its old-fashioned attitude towards lesbianism. Nevertheless it's well-written and a great deal more absorbing than a lot of British crime fiction produced since that date.
It's the story of the murder of an apparently very ordinary, slightly frumpy, middle-aged woman about whose life there seems nothing at all out of the ordinary. But Inspector Wexford and his sidekick, Inspector Burden eventually trace her connection to a set of altogether more sophisticated lives and it is that connection which was ultimately to prove her undoing.
The chief interest in the book is not the unmasking of the murderer (I guessed that two thirds of the way through.)It's the interplay of character between the world-weary detective and the rich and powerful individuals whose disdain for him conceals their own deep-seated insecurities. There's nothing especially original about this nowadays. I don't know whether it was original in 1979. Probably not. Nevertheless Ruth Rendell does it very well and the result is a reasonably satisfying, if somewhat predictable, read