From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. London's Portobello Road, a street fabled for its shops and outdoor market, provides the backdrop for Edgar-winner Rendell's superlative suspense novel, which features a cast of colorful characters from varied classes and walks of life. Secretive 50-year-old Eugene Wren, who's addicted to cheap candy lozenges, is toying with marrying his longtime girlfriend, physician Ella Cotswold. Rootless Lance Platt cases the neighborhood for costly homes he can break into, and clashes with his great-uncle, Gilbert Gibson, a former burglar who now preaches the gospel. One man's losing 115 pounds triggers a series of coincidences that brings this disparate lot closer together, toward haphazard violence and death. Rendell (The Water's Lovely) is particularly adept at portraying young people just a dole check away from homelessness as well as the carelessness and callousness of the book's upper-middle-class characters. Her style has become ever more spare while retaining its subtle psychology and vivid sense of place.
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Rendell writes better when she writes shorter. Most of her novels and short stories, for which she is justly acclaimed (she has won three Edgars as well as three Gold Daggers and one Diamond Dagger), have been minimalist works of suspense genius, the kind where you look around the room wonderingly when Rendell sinks in the shiv of surprise. In this novel, Rendell has relaxed a great deal, spending pages on bits of business (for example, the current hero likes a particular kind of snack) that would have been swiftly dealt with in her earlier work. This is a novel that should have been a short story about a man who finds an envelope filled with money. He doesn’t need it—he’s inherited his father’s wealth from a print shop in the Portobello Road—so he posts “Found” notices around the extensive Portobello street market. This act, of course, leads to a series of encounters with other Londoners, some of them dangerous. Rendell fans want to read everything she writes, but this overpadded tale is not among her best work. --Connie Fletcher