The Girl Next Door,
by Ruth Rendell (Hutchinson, RRP $37):
As is probably obvious from this blog, I read a lot, and a lot of the books I read are crime novels.
It seems like Ruth Rendell has been around forever, and given the fact that her first book (From Doon With Death, the first book in the Inspector Wexford series) was published two years before I was born, I suppose it’s safe to say that for me, she really has been around forever.
What’s even more impressive, is that after dozens of best-sellers in a career spanning five decades, this octogenarian has managed to come up with something fresh and interesting in this novel: who did the dirty deed isn’t a big mystery, it’s the why and the how, and the difficulty of working on a historic murder, that provide the intrigue.
When the bones of two severed hands are discovered in a box, an investigation into a long buried crime begins. And a group of friends, who played together as children, begin to question their past. With two hands, there are two victims, and while one of them is quite obvious from the start, the identity of the second victim isn’t revealed until quite near the end of the book.
The story revolves around a crime of passion that dates back to near the end of World War II and the investigation involves dealing with those children who are now in their twilight years.
The police investigating the crime are really just a minor, almost background part of the story: it’s the relationships between those children from so long ago, and between the adults they have become, that is the backbone of the story.
It’s an awesome read and, best of all, it manages to throw in a few surprises.