THE KEYS TO THE STREET
A delicate London flower plucks up the courage to walk out on her abusive lover--and into a vintage Rendell nightmare. Taking advantage of her house-sitting gig outside Regent's Park, Mary Jago gives Alistair Fowler his notice; and as if by magic, a new romantic interest springs up: Leo Nash, the recipient of Mary's bone-marrow transplant, whom she's previously known only as Oliver. Leo's as gentle and considerate, as sympathetic and loving, as Alistair was everything but, and in no time Mary's counting the hours between their decorous meetings. But there are already clouds Mary doesn't see on the horizon. At first the omens are only vaguely troubling, circling around the obsessions of Roman Ashton, a magazine editor sunk to life on the streets after losing his family to a freak accident; old Leslie Bean, who can't forget his irregular relations with his late employers; and Hob, who drifts through the park in a perpetual haze while he's waiting for his next fix. But the menace soon takes on a sharper edge. The police start to find street people gruesomely impaled on the ornamental gates of the park. Bean, who's been mugged in the park, swears revenge against his attacker and considers a spot of genteel blackmail on the side. Alistair turns out to be more persistent--and more vindictive--than Mary could ever have imagined. Veterans of Rendell's peerlessly doomy fantasies (The Crocodile Bird, 1993, etc.) will know that all these perturbations are nothing more than symptoms of the real problem: the secret that makes perfect mate Leo perfectly dreadful. Like Rendell's last Chief Inspector Wexford mystery (Simisola, 1995), this poignant tale shows the author at her most extroverted: Under her tireless probing, every social class that Regent's Park brings together turns out to be equally pathological.