I'm a passionate fan of this great mystery writer, which is why it pains me to say that this early Inspector Wexford mystery is extremely weak. The only reason I give it two stars instead of one is that the book will be of interest to Rendell's fans who are interested in tracing the development of her impressive talent. In an of itself, however, the book is a waste of time. If you are new to Rendell, I highly recommend you turn to her later novels.
SINS OF THE FATHERS has none of the qualities that made Rendell so beloved by her admirers around the globe. She is known, first and foremost, for her ability to create nuanced, complex, fascinating characters that are impossible to forget long after you have finished the novel. SINS OF THE FATHERS, however, offers us a cast of characters who are drab, boring, contradictory, and unconvincing. Even Wexford and Burden, Rendell's famous pair of detectives, are cardboard cutouts rather than living and breathing human beings. Wexford here is a cartoonish parody of a fascinating character he becomes in Rendell's later novels in the series.
The plot is extremely tedious. I never thought I could say this of any novel by Ruth Rendell but, apparently, she knew how to write extremely boring books at the dawn of her writing career. The ending - and I don't want to give out any spoilers here - is extremely disappointing.
In short, I cannot recommend this book to anybody except those who are well familiar with Rendell's later work and are curious to see how this writer fumbled in her early career as an author of mystery fiction.