A Fatal Inversion

A Fatal Inversion


By (author) Barbara Vine

List price $12.47

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  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Format: Paperback | 320 pages
  • Dimensions: 106mm x 180mm x 24mm | 181g
  • Publication date: 28 January 1988
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0140086374
  • ISBN 13: 9780140086379
  • Edition: New edition
  • Edition statement: New edition

Product description

In the long hot summer of 1976, a group of young people are camping in Wyvis Hall. Adam, Rufus, Shiva, Vivien and Zosie hardly ask why they are there or how they are to live; they scavenge, steal and sell the family heirlooms. In short, they exist. Ten years later, the bodies of a woman and child are discovered in the Hall's animal cemetery. Which woman? Whose child? "I defy anyone to guess the conclusion! The clues are cunningly planted, so that it seems one should have known all along. A most satisfying end" - "Daily Telegraph".

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Editorial reviews

Very much like last year's Edgar-winning A Dark-Adapted Eye, this second "Barbara Vine" novel (a Ruth Rendell pseudonym) deals with a bygone crime remembered, guiltily stewed over, and revealed bit by bit to the reader: a what-happened? rather than a whodunit. And again, though Rendell's rich, ironic narration and splendidly detailed characterization provide absorbing reading, the story that ultimately emerges is only half-convincing - and hardly worthy of the long, coy buildup. Two unidentified skeletons - belonging to a young woman and a baby girl - have just been found in a pet cemetery at Wyvis Hall, a Suffolk estate. And news of this discovery unhinges three Londoners who have not spoken to each other for a decade, not since that fatal summer of 1976, when 19-year-old Adam Verne-Smith - heir to Wyvis Hail - decided to turn the place into a secret mini-commune. Adam is now married, the doting father of a baby girl. His pal Rufus Fletcher, who was a hedonistic medical student back in '76, is now a respectable, married gynecologist. Shiva Manjusri, who was a promising student with hopes of upward mobility when he came to the commune with idealistic girlfriend Vivien Goldman, is now content with his shabby, ghetto-ized life. So all three, terrified to being linked to those skeletons, indulge in regretful, defensive, bitter flashbacks to What Happened that summer - when Adam picked up a new girlfriend, unstable Zosie, a recent unwed mother (forced to give up her baby) and teen runaway. Involved in the sad story that followed: "post-natal psychosis," baby-kidnap (cf. Rendell's The Tree of Hands), SIDS, Adam's immaturity, Rufus' selfishness, Shiva's greed, and Vivien's self-righteousness. The low-key, somber crime-reconstruction is marred by implausibilities - especially in the final chapters, when Rendell resorts to melodramatic coincidence to tie up loose ends. And, to an even greater degree than in A Dark-Adapted Eye, the teased-out revelation of the facts seems annoyingly contrived. Still, though the central characters are more pathetic than appealing, Rendell's control of the revolving, past/present viewpoints is commanding - with enough on-target psychology and evocative atmosphere to hold a fair portion of the psycho-crime (English style) audience. (Kirkus Reviews)