Rendell's non-detective thrillers sometimes become a bit excessive in their layers of psychopathology; her Inspector Wexford cases are usually more restrained. This time, however, the shrewd, wry, near-elderly Inspector is drawn into a somewhat unconvincing tangle of obsession, hysteria, neurosis, and psychosis. Rodney Williams, a paint-company sales manager, disappears for three weeks, then turns up dead (eight stab wounds), half-buried in a local meadow. Whodunit? Well, Wexford has quite a few suspects to choose from—because Williams, it soon emerges, was a bold bigamist: he had a sour, middle-aged wife in one town and a somewhat younger spouse in a town not far away, with a teen-age daughter from each marriage! Furthermore, Williams had a reputation for extra-marital philandering, focused on Lolita types. And Wexford also has to wonder if the murder is connected to ARRIA, a local radical-feminist teen cult that's devoted to violent self-defense against sexual harassment. (Several would-be Casanovas have been knifed recently.) Juicy material? Yes, indeed. Unfortunately, however, Render overdoes just about everything here—from the contrived red herrings to the interweaving of often-dated feminist themes. (Wexford's sidekick, Inspector Burden, has major marital woes because prenatal tests predict that his wife will bear a daughter, not a son.) And the final psycho-revelations, though partly guessable from the start, will raise the eyebrows of even the firmest Freudians. By Rendell standards, then, this is a disappointment. On the other hand, the page-by-page storytelling—wry, superbly paced, full of arresting character-details—is still unsurpassed in the mystery field.