At 37, Minty Knox is alone, eccentric, and a virgin. Then she meets Jock Lewis, who turns her life around. He also borrows money from Minty. They plan to be wed but then Minty gets the letter saying he died in a train wreck. Her life returns to bleakness but with one difference-she sees and hears Jock's ghost.

Zillah Leach's husband Jerry is a congenial ne'er do well. When she gets word that he's died in a train wreck, Zillah decides to move up in the world, for her childhood friend Jims Melcombe-Smith, Conservative MP and a closet queen, has asked her to marry him. Zillah's pretty sure that Jerry isn't dead but that's just a small detail.

Then there's Fiona. She's quite attracted to charming rogue Jeff Leigh. She knows him for what he is but he brings a special joy to her life. She can't understand why he disappears so suddenly.

Minty, Zillah, and Fiona are different as night and day, with only one thing in common. That commonality will eventually lead to murder, self-destruction, and a rebirth of sorts.

Ruth Rendell, the queen of psychological suspense, gives us a thriller that is quite chilling and yet optimistic. Cerebral and erudite, this is a novel to be savored. (Feb., 368 pp., $25.00)

Reviewed by: 
Toby Bromberg