A new bypass is about to be built near Inspector Wexford's home in Kingsmarkham, and groups of protestors are trying to hamper the work. Builders come across the body of a dead girl, and so Wexford is called in to investigate. And then his wife, along with 4 other Kingsmarkham residents, is kidnapped by a group which demands that work on the bypass be stopped.
The story evoked memories of the Newbury bypass, and I guess must have been written around that time. It was a bit of a shock to find how dated that all seems; there can't have been any major similar protests since then I suppose.
I read a Ruth Rendell book some time ago which I remember being very impressed by, and which had inspired me to read more. None of them was as good as the first, but it left me with a lingering sense that she was a writer that would be worth revisiting. But this was a very second-rate story.
On the plus side, Wexford seems relatively normal: generally in this type of book, the detective is some kind of maverick or has personal issues that bring him into conflict with his superiors, and to whom investigations appear a distraction from whatever other problems he has (Morse, Dalziel+Pascoe, Frost...). So it was quite nice to come across a straightforward policeman who has the support of his fellow officers and is genuinely keen to solve the case.
But the story just wasn't that interesting. The pace was far too slow, and the characters had little depth. Wexford's wife was returned by the kidnappers fairly early on, and so quite a lot of time was spent on her debriefing, and attempts by the investigating team to establish details about the kidnappers, but it eventually turned out that many of the "clues" were red herrings or of limited use.
When we eventually find who did it, it's not very exciting, or believable, and there was a passage which must have lasted about ten minutes with Wexford explaining what had gone on, to fill in the gaps for the reader.
Completed : 04-Oct-2005 (audiobook)