I have long been a fan of Ruth Rendell and she was one of the authors who got me into reading crime novels but I have been less impressed with some of her more recent books which seemed less defined than the brilliance of her earlier writing. However when I saw that she had written The Girl Next Door, I knew I was going to have to read it. Why? Well it is set in Loughton in Essex, an area I visited as a child, it has buried hands, secret passages and a murder committed during the Second World War.
At the beginning of this book we meet the murderer, we know one of the victims and we also know why the murder was committed. I found the character of the murderer and his victim the sketchiest of all, he seemed a little one dimensional but the story soon flips to the discovery of the hands in a biscuit tin found seventy years later.
The story almost appears to change genre with the discovery as we meet the now elderly characters who at the time of the murder were young children living in the area. These children had played in foundations of an unbuilt house inventing games under the ground. The story then concentrates on these characters as some of them meet after many years apart to help the police investigating (unwillingly) the provenance of the hands. These meetings have consequences that couldn’t have been foreseen as in the last years of their lives each of the characters have different challenges to face.
Ruth Rendell does what she does best, she examines the motives of these people making the subtle point that even in old age, people make mistakes, they still learn things about themselves and they can change the way they behave. There are some lovely people including the dear Mrs Moss who used to clean for the murderer as well as the misguided and the downright rotten.
The descriptions of Loughton bought the place to life and the plot was well executed although I found that in parts the looking back at how people said things a little repetitive at times but it did underline the enormous changes that someone in their late seventies would have seen over their lifetime.
I enjoyed this book although it wasn’t quite what I expected but it was less entertaining for that.
I’d like to thank the publishers, Random House, who gave me a copy of this book to review ahead of the publication date of 14 August 2014