- Series: Plume
- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Plume (October 1, 1993)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0452270642
- ISBN-13: 978-0452270640
- Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.7 x 6.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 219 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #238,969 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Dark-Adapted Eye (Plume) Paperback – October 1, 1993
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Writing under the pseudonym Barbara Vine, Ruth Rendell departs from her famous detective team of Wexford and Burden to tell a gripping tale of family madness. Vera Hillyard is a domineering and possessive woman who strives for obsessive control over a malicious older son, a youngest son who is--or isn't--illegitimate, and her younger sister, Eden, who secretly seeks to escape Vera's grasp and instead provokes a murder. This winner of the 1986 Edgar Award for best mystery novel belongs to the genre of old murders reconsidered and the question of who did what to whom and why is teasingly left unresolved.
No other living mystery writer complains more openly about the burden of fans expecting her to bring back series characters when she has other pursuits in mind. In A Dark-Adopted Eye . . . Rendell does what Conan Doyle never could: proves she has something far greater to offer. -- Publishers Weekly
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As the title suggests, we do not always see things clearly and things are not always as they appear. Perspective changes. The book is narrated by Faith when she is an adult. She is looking back on her childhood and her time spent with her persnickety and difficult Aunt Vera. We find out early on that Vera has been hanged for murder. Faith has been contacted by an author who wants to write a book about Vera and uncover some family secrets in the process. Additionally, Vera was involved (or was she?) in the disappearance of a 2 year old girl in her care when Vera was a teenager. Some family members agree to help while others refuse. The events are reconstructed by Faith, the author, and various family members. There is much speculation about family relationships and motives. The pictured is muddied by the fact that this is a family who enjoy their secrets. Vera and her sister Eden are idolized by some and reviled by others. To give more plot details would ruin the way the story is slowly revealed in bits and pieces.
Faith is irritated by her aunts Vera and Eden for the way they start a story in the middle and assume you know all the details. The book unravels in the same way. You get nuggets of information from Faith that are not clear until later. That could be irritating, but it is well done here and builds the suspense. I also appreciate that several of the major family secrets remain secrets. If you like your book endings tied in a bow, this is not the book for you. The writing itself is superb. My only quibble with the book is that I had trouble keeping all of the family members straight for about the first third. It is a gnarled family tree and requires all of your attention. I highly recommend this book and will be reading more of Barbara Vine in the future.
Set mainly in England's countryside during the world's second war, this lengthy novel takes side trips into the times before and after and into other locales, to flesh out its characters and to add depth to the story. Red herrings abound, making for an adventurous psychological whodunit.
Just as I can see more clearly through eyes grown accustomed to available light, this volume makes excellent use of the memories of those who inhabit it, be they as clear as a sunlit day or shrouded in twilight memories and storm clouds.