The first death could have been an accident.
When Mavis Ambrose is killed by a falling chunk of concrete, the police have no reason to suspect mischief. However, the bludgeoning of the young and gorgeous Amber Marshalson that follows is clearly murder. In the midst of the hottest summer on record, Inspector Wexford is called in to investigate. He discovers the two cases may be linked, and that Amber was at the scene of Mavis's death. When a third body is found, the case takes a disturbing and unexpected turn. The deeper Wexford digs, the darker the realities become, and what he finds leaves him feeling lost in a world absent of morals.
Bestseller Rendell's riveting new novel in her Chief Inspector Wexford series (The Babes in the Wood, etc.) links two disparate worlds--a child-surrogacy ring and the construction trade. A teenage mother, Amber Marshalson, is found dead in the grass outside her home in Kingsmarkham, her skull crushed by a piece of brick. A short time later, Amber's pregnant friend, Megan Bartlow, turns up murdered in a seedy, about-to-be-rehabbed Victorian row house. Suspicions center on a tall man wearing a hooded fleece jacket. Against this sinister backdrop stands Wexford, who's in lion-in-winter mode. He's irked and perplexed by modern life, by the casual way young girls conceive babies, by the sprawl devouring the once-lush Sussex countryside, even by his own fractious family. But he never loses the anger and dedication that propel him to solve crimes and understand evil. While Rendell fans may find this not quite up to the level of her most recent non-Wexford, Thirteen Steps Down (2005), they should be well satisfied. (July)
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
-- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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June 24, 2007
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Excerpt from End in Tears by Ruth Rendell
When he lifted it off the seat the backpack felt heavier than when he had first put it into the car. He lowered it on to the soft ferny ground. Then he got back into the driving seat to move the car deep into a cave made by hawthorn bushes and brambles, and the hop vines which climbed over everything in this wood. It was late June and the vegetation very dense and luxuriant.
Getting out again and standing back to take a good look, he could barely see the car. Probably he only saw it because he knew it was there. No one else would notice it. He squatted down, hoisted the backpack up on to his shoulders and slowly stood up to his full height. The movement reminded him of something and it was a moment before he realised what it was: lifting up his little son to sit on his shoulders. A hundred years ago, it seemed. The backpack was lighter than the boy but felt heavier to him.
He was afraid that if he stood upright the pack would jerk him backwards and break his spine. Of course it wouldn't. It just felt that way. All the same, he wouldn't stand upright, wouldn't even try it. Instead, he stooped, bending almost double. It wasn't far. He could walk like this the two hundred yards to the bridge. Anyone seeing him from a distance in this half-light would have thought him a humpbacked man.
There was no one to see. The twisty country lane wound round Yorstone Wood and over the bridge. He could have brought the car right up to the bridge but that way it would have been seen, so he had driven off the lane along a ride and then through a clearing to find the hop-grown cave. In the distance he thought he heard a car, then something heavier with a diesel engine. They would be on the road below, Brimhurst Lane that ran from Myfleet to Brimhurst Prideaux, passing under Yorstone Bridge ahead of him. It wasn't far now but it seemed like miles. If his legs gave way he wouldn't be able to get up again. Would it be easier to drag the backpack? What, then, if he met someone? Dragging something looks much more suspicious than carrying it. He pressed his shoulders back a little and, surprisingly, that was better. There was no one to meet. He could see the lane through the trees and the little stone bridge no one had reinforced with steel or replaced with a brightly painted wooden structure.
Its parapets were low, too low for safety, according to the local paper. The paper was always on about this bridge, and the dangers of the lane and the low parapets. He walked out on to the bridge, squatted down and let the backpack slip off his shoulders to the ground. He undid the flaps and then the zip. Inside, now revealed, was a lump of concrete, very roughly spherical, a bit bigger than a soccer ball. A pair of gloves was also inside the pack. To be on the safe side, he put them on. Though it would never come to anyone examining his hands, it would be stupid to scrape or bruise them.
What light remained was fading fast and with the coming of the dark it grew cooler. His watch told him that it was nine fifteen. Not long now. He lifted up the lump of concrete in his gloved hands, thought of balancing it on the parapet in readiness, then thought again. It wasn't beyond the bounds of possibility that someone would come along the path he had used and cross the bridge. Wait for the call, he thought. It won't be long now.
No traffic had passed along the road below since he had come on to the bridge but a car came now, going towards Brimhurst Prideaux, most probably all the way to Kingsmarkham. He closed his hand over the mobile in his pocket, worried because it hadn't rung. Then it rang.
'She's left. You want the number again?'
'I've got it. A silver Honda.'
'A silver Honda. Should be along in four minutes.'
He heard the line close. It was dark now. A car passed under the bridge, heading towards Brimhurst St Mary and Myfleet.