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.