Road Rage

Ruth Rendell, Author Crown Publishers $25 (352p) ISBN 978-0-609-60056-6
The latest Inspector Wexford tale (following Simisola, 1995) from the redoubtable Rendell has a spectacularly unexpected twist. His wife, Dora, usually a sensible but taken-for-granted background decoration, moves to center stage as a kidnap victim. It's all part of a plot by aggressive defenders of the English landscape to forestall a planned bypass (read superhighway) through some of the lovelier scenery around Kingsmarkham, Wexford's stomping ground. These terrorists on behalf of nature take a group of hostages (Dora being accidentally among them) and threaten to kill them one by one unless their demands to end highway construction are met. Wexford is not stayed from pursuing the villains with his customary thoughtful vigor, but Dora's involvement gives him a whole new perspective on her importance in his life, and his anguish is made extremely moving. It is as human drama rather than conventional mystery that Rendell's books usually excel anyway, and this is no exception. The machinations of the highway saboteurs may be a bit hard to swallow, and the plot is wound up with a rather mechanical adroitness; but such eternal questions as enduring marital affection and love of the English countryside are the engines that make this Wexford outing move in Rendell's usual absorbing way. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/31/1997
Release date: 08/01/1997
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