From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In addition to solving two long-ago murders, Chief Inspector Wexford is troubled by female genital mutilation in the local Somali community. The temptation would be to cut the subplot, but this abridgment retains the richness of the novel. Tim Curry's performance is splendid, even better than Daniel Gerroll's excellent performance of Rendell's End in Tears
. Curry does a particularly marvelous job with the minor characters, such as the two wives-in-law of a local author, who cackle at the sexual innuendos of their own jokes. Then there's 84-year-old Irene McNeil, alternately supercilious and weepy. Throw in the obsessive Grimbles, on whose land the bodies were found; some migrant fruit-picking Roma; Wexford's family; Somali immigrants; and Curry somehow sounds like a full-cast audio. If only Wexford sounded less like his assistant Burden, the performance would be absolutely perfect. A Crown hardcover (reviewed online). (July)
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Rendell, winner of three Edgar Awards, has two primary approaches in her acclaimed crime fiction: edgy novels of psychological suspense and more traditional police procedurals starring Chief Inspector Wexford of Kingsmarkham, Sussex. Where Rendell’s suspense can leave the reader deliciously unsettled, the Wexford novels place the reader on solid, sometimes overly familiar, ground. For example, Rendell overrelies on the old “see who cracks when the police visit” convention, using the questioning of witnesses/suspects in their homes as a launch pad for scathing comments on home decor and the occupants’ physical attributes—after the fourth or fifth visit, the formula starts to creak. But Rendell works feverishly within the form to deliver some surprises, starting here with the discovery of a human hand by a dog trained to hunt for truffles in the woods. The remains, according to the pathologist, have been buried for almost a decade. Wexford centers his investigation on the owners of the land where the hand was found, a contentious couple, greatly caught up in land disputes. When a second body is found in a basement wood pile, the action takes off. Rendell keeps the suspense going nicely, even if Wexford remains something of a cardboard character, and the procedure is mostly rooted in the past. For devoted fans of the series, of whom there are many, this will be much anticipated and, as always, satisfying; for others, only so-so. --Connie Fletcher