The lives of several Londoners cross with disturbing results when an obsessive and remorseless young woodworking art student named Teddy Brex comes of age after years of emotional neglect at the hands of his dysfunctional family. He has been raised in an environment without affection and so it is no surprise that he finds himself feeling nothing for the deaths of his aging parents, Jimmy and Eileen Brex, from ill health. Most sinister is how little thought he gives to killing his eccentric uncle Keith in order to gain possession of his home and car. Meanwhile, Francine Hill still suffers from the trauma of her mother Jennifer's murder 10 years earlier. Hoping to make a change for the better, her father Dr. Richard Hill moves them to a new home and marries her juvenile psychologist, Julia. Julia dedicates her life to keeping Francine from harm but loses her own mind over the course of time as she fixates on the safety and care of her now teenaged stepdaughter.
Harriett, once a pop music icon forever immortalized in a famous painting by Simon Alpheton, is now in her fifties and married Fulton Merton, an old man she doesn't love. She carries on a seemingly endless string of sexual relationships for decades before she encounters the wrong subject for her latest tryst, Teddy. Harriett answers an ad for a craftsman to do some building work on her cottage and Teddy is introduced to her. Teddy has already met and become obsessed with Francine. They begin dating but their relationship is kept hidden from her father and stepmother. Teddy covets the Merton's beautiful cottage and murders several more times to get rid of those individuals who stand in the way of his happiness with Francine. Rendell's novel is a taut and steady paced psychological thriller with deep exploration into its primary characters.
This report prepared by David Fletcher