cover image Anna's Book

Anna's Book

Ruth Rendell, Barbara Vine. Shaye Areheart Books, $22 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-517-58796-6

From the pen of Edgar-winner Ruth Rendell's suspense-writing doppleganger Vine ( A Dark-Adapted Eye ) comes a sixth adroitly fashioned novel of insidious psychological dimensions. Anna, an uncompromising Danish wife stranded by her husband in 1905 London, slyly scribbles tales of her hateful neighbors, boorish servant and absentee spouse while awaiting the birth of a baby. Half a century later, prompted by a poison pen letter, Anna tells her favorite daughter Swanny a half-riddle about her true parentage, but refuses to reveal the whole story, which is entangled with the murder of two women and the disappearance of a toddler. After frantically searching Anna's many diaries for clues to no avail, Swanny publishes them to great acclaim; after Swanny dies, her niece Ann picks up the thread binding three generations and families and follows it to a neatly executed conclusion. Vine skillfully braids the lives of the three women, but it is Anna's voice--puckish, angry, mysterious--that commands attention as fat red herrings are dangled, then tossed. While not as taut and chilling as Vine's--or Rendell's--best books, a mordant eye and textured accounts of turn-of-the-century London lend this novel a sharp edge. (July)