The Veiled One

In The Veiled One by Ruth Rendell, Chief Inspector Wexford and his longtime assistant Inspector Mike Burden investigate the murder of an older woman found strangled (or garroted) to death in a drab parking garage. Although Rendell demonstrates her usual mastery of psychology, both normal and abnormal, the plot creaks from the contrivances the writer forces on it. Simply put, too much happens by coincidence, which, in part, necessitates a long-winded denouement.

Early on, Wexford is removed from the investigation, bringing Burden front and center. Perhaps overly eager to prove his worth, Burden’s prime suspect–actually his only suspect–is Clifford Sanders, a sad, obviously disturbed young man with the mother from hell. Burden pursues his quarry with a dogged enthusiasm that Inspector Javert might have envied. Again and again, Burden interrogates the young man for hours on end, certain that with the next interrogation, he’ll finally confess. But somewhere along the way, their roles are reversed, with surprising and tragic consequences.

So despite its structural problems, the novel is worth reading, if only for those luscious scenes between Burden and Clifford.

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