Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Girl Next Door by Ruth Rendell

At the end of World War II, a group of English children met to play in what they called the tunnels.  It was really a house foundation that had been dug out and then deserted as construction ground to a halt with laborers off to war, but to a group of kids it was a playground come true.  Deserted with no adults to interfere, the tunnels served as a location to make friends and tell secrets. Finally, one of the fathers found their hideout and ran them off, as adults would, but the friendships begun there would survive.

Now, sixty years later, the group comes back together due to a gruesome discovery.  The foundation was excavated as new construction was started, and a small biscuit tin was found.  Inside the tin were the bones of two hands, one female, one male.  Who had lost their hands and why were the rest of the bodies never found?

The group searched each other out and reunited to see if they could come up with answers.  Some of them had died, of course, and those left were now in their seventies and seeing the end of their own lives.  Secrets were no longer worth keeping, and together they were able to piece together actions that had seemed opaque long ago without the background to interpret them.  As they talked, they discovered relatives that had gone missing and been put down to wartime dislocations.  Were these the couple whose hands had been discovered?

But coming together changed the group.  Some came together as lovers, breaking up long-time marriages in an attempt to find long-lost happiness.  Some discovered that they still could find friendship and ways to be happy.  Some discovered that their worst fears were true and the monsters they thought were childhood fancies were very real indeed.

Ruth Rendell is one of the brightest stars in the mystery genre.  Her career has spanned fifty years and more than sixty books.  She has won three Edgar Awards and made a member of the House Of Lords in England.  Readers will find this book as interesting as those that have come before.  It is recommended for mystery readers and those interested in how age changes us yet leaves us the same.

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