Another somber yet taut, darkly psychological investigation in suburbia for Inspector Wexford—though this time sidekick Mike Burden, still a tad naive, shoulders most of the responsibility (and provides much of the emotional interest). Mrs. Gwen Robson, a 60-ish housewife with an arthritic husband, is found dead—via nasty garrote, apparently—in the parking garage of a shopping mall. Why would someone want to kill gossipy, money-grubbing Mrs. Robson? Wexford has just begun to ponder when he's injured by a terrorist car-bomb, apparently intended for actress-daughter Sheila (a political activist). So Burden carries on—and becomes obsessed with Clifford Sanders, the frail young teacher who found the victim's body...and ran away in panic. Convinced that unstable Clifford (who lives with his creepy, smothering mother) is the murderer, Burden interrogates the boy mercilessly—with unexpected, Freudian results. And, meanwhile, the recuperating Wexford pursues other lines of inquiry: Mrs. Robson's neighbors; her links to a "Dear Abby"-like magazine columnist; blackmail schemes, and secret bygone crimes. Before presenting the satisfying (if unsurprising) solution, Wexford rather ploddingly serves up a smorgasbord of red herrings. But, if less well-plotted than Rendell's best, this is absorbing and disturbing nonetheless—thanks to a suspect list abrim with edgy pathos, Wexford's paternal broodings on his rivalrous daughters, and (above all) the richly developed, nightmarish relationship between misguided Burden and suspect #1.