A CRY FROM THE DARK

Robert Barnard, Author . Scribner $24 (288p) ISBN 978-0-7432-5345-1

Prolific British author Barnard (The Mistress of Alderley , etc.) offers a slow-to-start but strong-to-finish thriller set somewhat confusingly in both rural 1930s Australia and contemporary England. Eighty-year-old Bettina (once Betty) Whitelaw is an acclaimed London writer whose semi-autobiographical novels take place in the Outback settlement of Bundaroo, the desolate town she left behind forever after being raped in her teens one summer night by an unknown assailant. Occasionally endearing, but more often emotionally empty, Bettina now finds herself threatened by the distant past when the ransacking of her flat and an assault on her maid Katie suggest that vindictive former acquaintances, fearful of what she may be writing about them, have pursued her to England. An odd assortment of ex-friends and lovers, plus several family members, including her "unacknowledged daughter" Sylvia (the offspring of Bettina's brief marriage to a British army officer), arrive in London to create an intriguing collection of suspects in what soon becomes a murder case. With abrupt time and place transitions and obscure chapter titles, we are led through a complicated series of ever-more-suspenseful incidents that build to a semi-tragic, though largely predictable, finale that will play on the reader's emotions if not Bettina's. (Feb. 17)

FYI: Barnard has won Anthony, Agatha and Macavity awards, and in 2003 received the Cartier Diamond Dagger Award for lifetime achievement.

Reviewed on: 01/19/2004
Release date: 02/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 287 pages - 978-1-58724-685-2
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-0-7432-6176-0
Hardcover - 333 pages - 978-0-7505-2241-0
Hardcover - 260 pages - 978-0-7490-0617-4
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-1-4165-6963-3
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