First published in 1973 by Hutchinson
“Rendell is a great storyteller who knows how to make sure that the reader has to turn the pages out of a desperate need to find out what is going to happen next” (John Mortimer, Sunday Times)
The sleepy town of Kingsmarkham is about to experience its first ever Rock Festival and whilst the older generation are ready to pack their bags, lock up their homes and run away for the weekend to save their eardrums from the cacophonic noise they perceive is about to descend upon them, youngsters are flocking to Sundays Park and preparing to camp under the stars just to get a glimpse of their latest heartthrob. Even the police force, it would seem, is divided. Detective Inspector Michael Burden quickly starts judging those disembarking the trains whilst Chief Inspector Wexford is far more open-minded about the event.
To try and alleviate concerns of the local community, Wexford proactively seeks permission from Martin Silk, owner of the Sundays land and event’s organiser, to speak to partygoers over the mic before the opening act. Instinctively believing that there will be no trouble, Mr Silk reluctantly agrees, seeing Wexford and his team as mood-damping hypocrites who have clearly forgotten how to enjoy themselves.
Intrigued and wanting to experience more Wexford, much to Silk’s frustration, stays after his broadcast to enjoy the music and realises that he actual quite likes some of the modern twists on hippy rock. A one-time local, Zeno Vedast, does leave him slightly more perplexed with his performance although he is unable to dwell on why as a sinister discovery is made. In the quarry next door the body of a young lady is uncovered by a party-going couple in search of a private place to be together.
A full scale investigation begins in the hope that they will be able to discover the identity of the individual who has lost their life in such a brutal way and bring a sense of justice to this horrific crime.
Within a short period of time the beaten girl is named as stripper Dawn Stonor. Her mother, a local resident, is able to confirm that she last saw her the Monday before the festival but that she permanently lived in London, chasing the dream of making it big one day. It was a fleeting visit and she was gone by 4pm with the pretence that she had to return to the bright lights of the city.
With a name and some background to work with, Wexford and Burden then try to piece together the final hours of Dawn Stonor’s life.
Heading back to Sunday’s, the first thing that Wexford wants to do is question Silk further. It’s his quarry so who better to hide a body in it? It’s secluded and off the beaten track so there is no reason to wander into the quarry unless you have a purpose for being there.
After being asked to leave by Silk Wexford turns his attentions to just three other potential suspects. At the back of the Sundays, also linked to the quarry, are three cottages each with a gate backing onto the quarry – could one of these individuals have reason to harm Dawn Stonor?
Finally, one more suspect is added to the list – the rock star that left Wexford confused by his performance at the festival – Zeno Vedast. It would appear that Dawn and Zeno were at one time school friends. Could friendship have been rekindled and then turned nasty?
With so many people to question it takes time for Wexford and Burden to begin to piece the information together, leading to frustration and annoyance. The investigation is slow to unfold and when the answer comes to Wexford the realisation that justice may never be served hinders him.
Whodunit? Well, you will have to read the novel if you wish to find that out!
Ruth Rendell has created a page-turning novel without adding gruesome descriptions of brutality that are so common in crime books today. This is an easy-to-read, detective novel that you will struggle to put down.
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