2009: 57. Harm Done

“The Children’s Crusade, he called it after it was all over, because children had played such a big part in it.  Yet it wasn’t really about children at all.”

Harm Done, Ruth Rendell

I’ve recently read a few of the newer Wexford mysteries, and I have to say that they are leaps and bounds more interesting than the older ones.  They are more complex, both in plot and in emotion, and while I still find Wexford himself to be a bit of a cipher, the other characters seem so much more real and interesting that I find myself much more engaged by these books than by the early novels (and also more than many of her stand alone novels, because they tend to be more about regular people’s involvement with crime than with crazy psychopaths).

This mystery is about a girls who go missing - first two adult girls who disappear for a few days and then return with only vague and bizarre explanations of where they’ve been, and then a little girl who goes missing for real and cannot be found.  On top of this a pedophile has been released from prison, and come to Wexford’s town, and the villagers are so angry that they are practically rioting (and eventually are actually rioting).  Rendell manages to combine such disparate topics as NIMBY-ism hysteria, domestic violence, and missing children into an interesting and seamless mystery novel, without seeming preachy or clunky, and it’s books like this that make her into one of the best writers of this kind of fiction writing today.

Date/Place Completed: May 2009; D.C.

Categories: Fiction; Ruth Rendell Project

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017