P. D. James gets the headlines, but it is becoming increasingly clear, with one superb book after another (A Judgement in Stone, A Sleeping Life, Make Death Love Me), that Ruth Rendell is the best all-around mystery/crime writer in the world today. And if this new Inspector Wexford ease isn't quite as darkly gripping as Rendell's finest, it's thoroughly nifty on its own sly terms--with some charming tips of the hat to Agatha Christie's passion for false claimants, switched identities, and compounded misunderstandings. The victim is famed, rich old flutist Sir Manuel Camargue, who drowns in his own lake just days before marrying a much younger woman. Accident? Maybe not, thinks Wexford--especially when he learns that Camargue himself suspected that his coolly sarcastic and darkly beautiful daughter Natalie, just returned from years in America, was an impostor! Cat-and-mouse interrogations ensue, plus a "vacation" trip to Natalie's California stomping ground (Mrs. Wexford gets understandably tetchy)--all so that the now-obsessed Inspector can prove Natalie a phony. But then there are about a half-dozen more twists all coiled and ready (a disappearing witness, a body in a trunk, a South of France showdown) before the ironically simple truth surfaces. And though it's no news that Rendell can be scary, clever, sardonic, and even warmly engaging (the Wexford family remains a likable crew), here she's all that and genuinely witty as well--in another fiendishly readable winner from an awesomely versatile talent.