Sgt. Karl Alberg's llth case (A Touch of Panic, 1994, etc.) begins when Maria Buscombe, returning home seven years after she abandoned her husband and teenage daughter, is killed in her rooming house before she can speak to them. But Maria's murder is only the tip of a grim iceberg, since the leading questions about her death--who was paying her $20,000 a year to stay away from her family; why was she so willing to go; and why did she decide to break her contract by returning--take Alberg back past the scene of Maria's unceremonious departure to horrifying revelations about her past: the discovery, shortly before she left, that she was adopted and that her newly discovered birth mother has unimaginably good reasons for not wanting Maria to know about her. Meanwhile, back in the present, Maria's daughter, now married, wonders what legacy her mother left her and the child she feels growing inside her, and poet/snoop Hamilton Gleitman and gambling bookstore-manager Everett Danforth await their destined appointments with Wright's doomy plot. If you have a taste for grownup demons looming out of the fog of memory, you can't do better than this wrenching tale from Canada's Ruth Rendell.