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The Tree Of Hands [Paperback]

Ruth Rendell
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Product Description

Review

"The web is spun with fiendish skill." – Observer

"Domestic dramas exploding into deaths and murders…Threads are drawn tightly together in a lethal last pattern." – Sunday Times

From the Back Cover

"The web is spun with fiendish skill." – Observer

"Domestic dramas exploding into deaths and murders…Threads are drawn tightly together in a lethal last pattern." – Sunday Times

About the Author

Ruth Rendell is the Queen of British crime writing. The author of over 50 novels, she has won many significant crime fiction awards. Her first novel, From Doon With Death, appeared in 1964, and since then her reputation and readership have grown steadily with each new book. She has received major awards for her work; three Edgars from the Mystery Writers of America; the Crime Writers' Gold Dagger Award for 1976's best crime novel, A Demon in My View; the Arts Council National Book Award for Genre Fiction in 1981 for The Lake of Darkness; the Crime Writer's Gold Dagger Award for 1986's best crime book for Live Flesh; in 1987 the Crime Writer's Gold Dagger Award for A Fatal Inversion and in 1991 the same award for King Solomon's Carpet, both written under the pseudonym Barbara Vine; the Sunday Times Literary Award in 1990; and in 1991 the Crime Writer's Cartier Diamond Award for outstanding contribution to the crime fiction genre. Her books are translated into 21 languages. In 1996 she was awarded the CBE and in 1997 became a Life Peer.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

The Tree of Hands

Once, when Benet was about fourteen, they had been in a train together, alone in the carriage, and Mopsa had tried to stab her with a carving knife. Threatened her with it, rather. Benet had been wondering why her mother had brought such a large handbag with her, a red one that didn’t go with the clothes she was wearing. Mopsa had shouted and laughed and said wild things and then she had put the knife back in her bag. But Benet had been very frightened by then. She lost her head and pulled the emergency handle that Mopsa had called the “communication cord”. The train stopped and there had been trouble for everyone involved and her father had been angry and grimly sad.

She had more or less forgotten it. The memory of it came back quite vividly while she was waiting for Mopsa at Heathrow. Though she had seen Mopsa many times since then, had lived under the same roof with her and seen how she could change, it was the scarved, shawled, streamed figure with its fleece of shaggy hair that she watched for as she waited behind the barrier among the tour guides with their placards, the anxious Indians, the businessman’s wives. James wanted to come out of the pushchair, he couldn’t see down there and he wasn’t feeling well. Benet picked him up and set him on her hip with her arm around him.

It ought to have been exciting, waiting here. There was something dramatic about the emergence of the first people from behind the wall that hid Customs, almost as if they had escaped into freedom. Benet remembered once meeting Edward here and how wonderful that first sight of him had been. All those people streaming through, all unknown, all strangers, and then Edward, so positively and absolutely Edward that it was as if he were in colour and all the rest in black and white. Waiting for Mopsa wasn’t like that. Waiting for Edward, if such a thing were conceivable, wouldn’t be like that now. There was no one in her world that waiting for would be like that except James, and she couldn’t see any reason why she and James should be separated. Not for years and years anyway. She dug in her bag for tissue and wiped his nose. Poor James. He was beautiful though, he always was, even if his face was wan and his nose pink.

A couple came through, each pushing a tartan suitcase on wheels. The woman behind them held a small suitcase in one hand and a small holdall in the other. It would be hard to say which was carry-on baggage and which had been checked. The cases matched; they were of the biscuit-coloured stuff you couldn’t tell was plastic or leather. She was a drab colourless washed-out woman. Her pale wandering eyes rested on Benet and recognised her. It was that way round – otherwise would Benet ever have known?

Yet this was Mopsa. This was her mad mother who was kissing her, smiling and giving a dismissive wave of the hand when James, instead of responding to her, buried his face in Benet’s shoulder. This was Mopsa in a dowdy grey suit, a pink blouse with a gold pin at the collar, her hair cut brusquely short and faded to tarnished silver.

Benet put the cases on the pushchair, using it as a baggage trolley. She carried James who snuffed and stared, round-eyed, curious, at this new unknown grandmother. Mopsa had developed a brisk springy walk. Her carriage was erect, her head held high. In the past she had sometimes slouched, sometimes danced, swanned and swayed in her Isabelle Duncan moods, but she had never walked briskly like an ordinary woman. Or perhaps she did when I was very young, thought Benet, trying to remember a girl-mother of twenty years before. It was too long ago. All she could recall now was how she had longed for a normal mother like other girls had and took for granted. Now when she was twenty-eight and it no longer mattered, it seemed she had one. She stopped herself staring. She asked after her father.

“He’s fine. He sent his love.”

“And you really like living in Spain?”
“I don’t say it hasn’t its drawbacks but Dad hasn’t had a sign of asthma in three years. It keeps me fit too.” Mopsa smiled cheerfully as if her own illness had been no more than a kind of asthma. She talked like one of those neighbours in Edgware had talked. Like Mrs Fenton, Benet thought, like a middle-aged housewife. “I feel a fraud coming here for these tests,” Mopsa said. “There’s nothing wrong with me any more, I said, but they said it wouldn’t do any harm and why not have a holiday? Well, I’m on holiday all the time really, aren’t I? Are we going in the tube? It must be seen or eight years since I went in the tube.”

”I’ve brought the car,” said Benet.

In her teens, she used sometimes to say over and over to herself, I must not hate my mother. The injunction had not always been obeyed. And then she would say, But she’s ill, she can’t help it, she’s mad. She had understood and forgiven but she had not wanted to be with her mother. When she went away to university, she had resolved that she would never go back and, except for short holidays, she never had. Her father had retired and her father and mother had bought themselves a little house near Marbella. Mopsa’s face and the backs of her hands were tanned by the sunshine of southern Spain. Benet shifted James on to her other hip and he snivelled and clung to her.

From AudioFile

Novelist Benet Archdale and housemaid Carol Stratford are two young, single parents who have no reason to know each other. They become tangled in a nightmarish spiral of kidnap, fraud, family violence and death. Ruth Rendell creates psychological suspense in thrillers that are compulsively readable or, in this case, listenable. British actress Imelda Staunton's reading is perfectly paced, and the characters are well defined. You'll have a hard time turning it off. N.B.H. (c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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