Inspector Reginald Wexford’s 20th case, and Rendell’s 64th volume, asks who murdered a pair of Kingsmarkham teens no better than they should have been.
Last June, a hooded figure tried to kill 18-year-old mother Amber Marshalson by tossing a block of concrete onto her car from an overpass. The resulting accident led to a fatality, but it wasn’t Amber. Now, two months later, the killer has struck more effectively. On the way home from the Bling-Bling Club, Amber’s been beaten to death with a brick that could have come from anywhere. As Wexford, DS Hannah Goldsmith and their colleagues (The Babes in the Wood, 2003, etc.) methodically begin to interrogate witnesses and potential suspects—the neighbors of Amber’s adoring father and hostile stepmother, the friends she went clubbing with, the well-connected family of her baby’s father—Rendell sets about bringing each of them to startling life. She lavishes equal care on the members of Wexford’s own family, led this time by his daughter Sylvia, who’s quixotically determined to carry a baby for her ex-husband, Neil, and his girlfriend, Naomi. Soon enough, the murderer claims a new victim, pregnant shop clerk Megan Bartlow, whose connection with Amber isn’t hard to find. But it’ll be months before Wexford emerges from an intricate web of red herrings to identify a sadly amateurish scam and a surprising killer.
Average for Rendell’s distinguished list of whodunits, which makes it just a whisker below state of the art.