Rendell is rightfully one of the reigning queens of British mystery, but this latest effort is not among her best works. As she leads the reader through the lives of eight characters, each meticulously developed, the attention to detail takes its toll on the meandering narrative, slowing the pace to a snail’s crawl. As a portrait of lives affected by coincidence, this is a fascinating study. As a suspense novel, it’s not a great success.
When a man has a heart attack on the street and loses an envelope full of cash, several lives intersect. The envelope’s finder, Eugene, is hiding a secret from his fiancée, Ella, a doctor who becomes emotionally attached to the owner, Joel, who is slowly succumbing to insanity. Meanwhile, Lance, eager to win back Gemma and escape living with his uncaring uncle, begins a crime spree that starts with a scam connected to Joel’s money and ends with a murder. (SCRIBNER, Sep., 314 pp., $26.00)