For her sixth Barbara Vine novel (King Solomon's Carpet, 1992, etc.), Ruth Rendell returns to the formula of the earliest Vines: the unfolding investigation--through the interpretation of contemporary accounts aided by memory--of a crime in the past. For over 60 years, Anna Westerby, a Danish ÇmigrÇ trapped in London with her unloving husband Rasmus, has unburdened herself to a diary that is published after her death to acclaim and wide sales. It isn't until after Anna's daughter Swanny's death in 1988 that Anna's granddaughter Ann Eastbrook, acting on a suggestion from her onetime friend Cary Olver (who stole, married, and divorced Ann's former lover), wonders whether the hints of Swanny's illegitimacy--hints Anna placidly refused to confirm or deny during her lifetime--might be connected to the 1913 trial of her neighbor Alfred Roper for the murder of his wife Lizzie. Does Anna's diary hold the key to Roper's innocence or guilt? Does it reveal whether his baby daughter Edith, who vanished on the day of the murder and hasn't been seen since, is actually Swanny? Once Ann accepts Cary's theory that a brief, crucial section of Anna's entries for 1905 is missing from the diary, she decides that only these missing entries can clear up the mystery of Swanny's birthright. But the mystery, as Vine's fans will expect, takes several unexpected turns in past and present before Ann finally solves the puzzle of her family's history. Vine's character drawing--from grimly independent Anna to the luckless Roper family--is as firm as ever, and there's the bonus of an unusually intricate plot. Despite an anticlimactic ending, then: the best Vine since A Dark-Adapted Eye.