Friday, July 13, 2018

The Babes In The Wood by Ruth Rendell

It was a parent's worst nightmare.  The Dales were very protective parents, rarely going anywhere without the children.  Giles Dale was sixteen and his sister, Sophie was thirteen.  But when the parents had a chance at a weekend away in France, they took their chance.  One of the children's former teachers had agreed to come and stay with them so everything seemed fine.  But when the parents returned, the children and the woman staying with them had all disappeared.  What could have happened?

Chief Inspector Wexford had a job on his hands.  To complicate matters,  it had been raining for days and everything was flooded.  Roads were cut off and the police were busy helping people evacuate.  Everyone's first thought was that the trio had drowned, but Wexford had trouble believing it.  Even flooded, the waters were about four feet deep in the deepest flood areas and both the children could swim.  In fact, all three could have waded to safety.  But the search assumed the worst and valuable resources were diverted to search for the children and their babysitter along with her car.  Nothing was found.

Days went by and then weeks.  No sign of the three was found.  Finally, after weeks of frustration, the car was found miles away in a remote country estate which was deserted most of the year.  There was a body within.  It was Joanna Troy, the teacher who was staying with the children.  There was no sign of the children at all.

As the weeks and then months went by, Wexford and his team continued to search for the children and investigate what happened to Joanna.  Secrets started to emerge and relationships that had seemed solid now showed their cracks.  Would they ever find the truth?

This is the nineteenth Chief Wexford novel in the series.  He is an interesting character, a more cerebral man who has a skeptical outlook on life and who rarely believes that what is shown at first glance is all that it seems.  Ruth Rendell is, of course, acknowledged as one of the masters of the mystery genre and this novel does not disappoint.  The gradual unwinding of the mystery and the glimpses into the lives of the police involved are intriguing and the mystery's solution is one most will never see coming.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

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