cover image King Solomon's Carpet

King Solomon's Carpet

Barbara Vine. Shaye Areheart Books, $19 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-517-58795-9

Imbued with a sense of foreboding so palpable that readers will turn nearly every page with deep apprehension, this lyrical, leisurely paced psychological thriller teems with deftly drawn characters who inhabit a dark world near the West Hampstead stations of the London Underground. There an eccentric troupe of boarders shares Jarvis Stringer's Victorian-style home. Among them are Alice, a confused young woman who's recently left both husband and infant to fulfill her musical ambitions as a concert violinist; Tom, a flutist who coaxes Alice into the Underground where they become buskers and then lovers; the sinister-looking Axel, whose constant companion is a man in a bear suit; and Jasper, a tattooed 10-year-old who rides the tops of subway cars for excitement. Strangest of all is their landlord, a man obsessed by subways and ``not much troubled by sexual feelings'' whose lifework is compiling a guide to and history of metro systems around the world. Vine (the pseudonymous Ruth Rendell), whose first novel, A Dark-Adapted Eye , won an Edgar, intersects the fates and feelings of this disparate ensemble in ways that are at once surprising and inevitable. (Apr.)