In her 18th novel featuring Inspector Wexford Rendell weaves together multiple plots involving two missing teen-age girls, a convicted pedophile returning to his residence in Kingsmarkham and the mob violence his return touches off, and a little girl missing from an upper middle class home. Not all of these plots work well together, which is why I have given it only 4 stars.
However, the central plot about the missing little girl is what captured me. The story that Ruth Rendell tells of the effects of domestic violence on an entire family is chilling and heartbreaking. Not only does the wife and mother suffer extreme mental and physical abuse but the two children remaining in the home are clearly adversely affected. The effects of domestic violence will be felt in this family long after their escape from abuse. Rendell builds an atmosphere of suspense and dread that can only be a small reflection of the terror of living in such a situation, but the empathetic reader will be much affected. There can be no real happy ending to this story, at least not immediately. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys well drawn and believable characters, especially that of Inspector Wexford who is faced with a real moral dilemma.