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Once when Benet was about fourteen she and her mother had been alone in a train carriage - and Mopsa had tried to stab her with a carving knife. It was some time since Benet had seen her psychologically disturbed mother. So when Mopsa arrived at the airport looking drab and colourless in a dowdy grey suit, Benet tried not to hate her. But then the tragic death of a child begins a chain of deception, kidnap and murder in which three women are pushed to their psychological limit. Winner of the Crime Writers' Association Silver Dagger in 1984 and shortlisted for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Awards. Adapted into a hit thriller film starring Lauren Bacall.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099434702
ISBN-10: 0099434709
Format: Paperback
(177mm x 110mm x 16mm)
Pages: 272
Imprint: Arrow Books Ltd
Publisher: Cornerstone
Publish Date: 21-Apr-1994
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


US Kirkus Review » Several of the favorite Rendell themes - madness, suffocating family ties, real estate, ironically overlapping crimes - come together in this firmly intriguing (if ultimately half-satisfying) anatomy of a child-kidnapping. In a posh part of London, unwed mother Benet Archdale, a youngish bestselling novelist, is grieving over the recent death of her four-year-old son - while receiving a trying visit from her mother Mopsa, a genteel madwoman (supposedly now cured). Meanwhile, in a dreary blue-collar London neighborhood, barmaid Carol Stratford, a tough young widow with three kids, is being sweetly doted upon by her very young live-in boyfriend Barry - who doesn't quite realize that Carol is a child-beater (and a tramp). The connection between the two stories? Crazy mum Mopsa, though herself utterly unaffected by her grandson's death, casually kidnaps Carol's wee son Jason and brings him home as a consoling stand-in for Benet - who is first unaware, then horrified (and uncharmed by dopey Jason), then intent on returning the boy. . . but eventually drawn to the notion of giving Jason (an obviously abused child) a permanent new home and mother. Still: won't the police track Jason to Mopsa (who has by now been shipped back to her Spain retirement-home) or to Benet? No, not at all: their prime suspect is poor innocent Barry - who himself wrongly suspects Carol's ex-lover Terry Wand, a sleazy gigolo in the midst of an audacious real-estate scam. And all these strands - plus Carol's promiscuity and a blackmail-attempt by Benet's ex-lover - will become a wry criss-cross towards the end, with two deaths, two fugitive-flights, and several arrests packed into the last few pages. True, this finale doesn't work nearly as well as some other Rendell windups: a minor, indistinct character plays far too important a role. Elsewhere, too, Rendell displays her slightly excessive fondness for contrivance and coincidence. But much of this warm yet chilling tale offers Rendell at her very best: the crisply textured characters, the modern-London atmosphere, the finely controlled mixture of creepiness and pathos - and the nearly-unrivaled gift for plain, beguiling storytelling. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Ruth Rendell

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.

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