Cover image for Harm done
Title:
Harm done
Author:
Rendell, Ruth, 1930-2015.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Crown, 1999.
Physical Description:
346 pages ; 25 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780609605479
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

On the day Lizzie came back from the dead, the police and her family and neighbors had already begun to search for her body. She had been missing for three days. Never an articulate child, between her confusion and amnesia she could not plausibly describe where she'd been or why she'd been away. Soon after, a convicted pedophile is released back into the community, adding to the already heightened fears of parents in the Muriel Campden Estate where he lives. Then the child of a wealthy executive disappears, and not long after, a suspect in the kidnapping is found stabbed to death. Chief Inspector Wexford is charged with solving the mysterious disappearances, protecting a pedophile, and catching a killer. As he searches for connections, he finds himself focusing on domestic violence. His daughter, Sylvia, a social worker, has come to work nearby in a refuge for battered women called The Hide. Her marriage is also strained, although her husband has never raised a hand to her. Others in Kingsmarkham are not so fortunate. As Wexford moves closer to the truth, he confronts the discomfiting lesson that when it comes to the inner life of families, justice is rarely as straightforward as the letter of the law.


Author Notes

Ruth Rendell (1930-2015) Ruth Rendell was born in Essex, England on February 17, 1930. She was educated at Loughton County High School.

Rendell began her career as a journalist. She wrote six novels before sending her work in to a publisher. She writes crime novels and psychological thrillers, and is best known for her Inspector Wexford books. Rendell also writes under the pseudonym Barbara Vine.

Rendell has received many awards for her writing, including the Silver, Gold, and Cartier Diamond Daggers from the Crime Writers' Association, three Edgars from the Mystery Writers of America, The Arts Council National Book Awards, and The Sunday Times Literary Award. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Many of her titles have been made into films and made-for-tv movies.

Rendell died on May 2, 2015. She was 85 years old.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In the eighteenth Wexford tale, Rendell's forty-seventh published book, the well-known chief inspector is doubly frustrated by the limits of his profession. On the heels of the disappearance (and odd reappearance) of two teenage girls, Wexford receives news that a convicted pedophile is being released into the community. Fueled by newspaper articles, unrest among the man's neighbors ensues. When a three-year-old child vanishes from the home of her wealthy parents, the town rumor mill explodes--no matter that the pedophile had nothing to do with the crime. Ironically, the trail Wexford follows leads back to the door of the parents, who for all the world seem a happy couple. Nothing is further from the truth: the outwardly devoted husband is a deranged martinet who physically abuses his wife and terrorizes his children. Right-thinking Wexford grapples with his own moral conscience when the man is murdered. With characteristic irony and complexity, Rendell picks at the corners of British society, unearthing dark secrets among his Kingsmarkham fellows. Leave it to Wexford to get to the bottom of things, as he sees up close the cycle of shame and hopelessness that traps a family under siege by one of its own. --Stephanie Zvirin


Publisher's Weekly Review

In her latest Inspector Wexford mystery (following Road Rage), the prolific Rendell shows that, like Wexford, she too is a master of indirection. Like a stout, aging British Columbo, Wexford hides his intuition and keen powers of observation behind a rumpled, grandfatherly facade. Three of the cases that he unravels in this satisfyingly complex work have to do with the abuse of women or children. The crimes range from the ridiculous (a petulant university girl and a mentally challenged girl from a low-income housing project are each kidnapped to do housework and returned for ineptitude) to the monstrous (Wexford and his men must protect a child molester who was released from prison while a rich man tortures his wife in the comfort of his spacious home). Rendell is too realistic a writer to link her crimes together in a sensational way. Instead, each offense galvanizes a slew of colorful characters of all classes who live in the suburban community of Kingsmarkham. Wexford's daughter Sylvia, a strident volunteer for a battered women's shelter, fills in her father on the signs of abuse and abusers, and it is a measure of Rendell's subtle skill that she manages to address a social blight without ever losing track of her plot or flattening her characterizations. Thanks to Rendell's steadfast devotion to what is real over what is mere theory, what comes through in her 47th book is the unique human mystery at the heart of a crime. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

Chief Inspector Wexford is having a busy month. First two young women are taken from a bus stop; then a pedophile is released from jail, triggering violence from members of the community. During the course of these events a colleague is killed. Then a child is stolen from her crib in the middle of the night, and later her father is found murdered. On top of this Wexford must deal with the disintegration of his daughter's marriage and her new job in a shelter for victims of domestic violence, a job that lands her right in the middle of several of the cases he is working on. How does the inspector deal with these cases as well as the crises that are arising from his own family? Unlike most crime mysteries, this seems to be more of a slice of life focusing on a variety of tales and their aftermaths. Though the novel, read by Christopher Ravenscroft, starts out promisingly, it gets bogged down, and the stories come to boring, contrived endings. Since Rendell is a popular writer, libraries will want to have this title to satisfy demand. Otherwise, not a necessary purchase.√ĄDanna Bell-Russel, Library of Congress (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

From Chapter 1 On the day Lizzie came back from the dead the police and her family and neighbors had already begun the search for her body. They worked on the open countryside between Kingsmarkham and Myringham, combing the hillsides and beating through the woods. It was April but cold and wet, and a sharp northeast wind was blowing. Their task was not a pleasant one; no one laughed or joked and there was little talking. Lizzie's stepfather was among the searchers, but her mother was too upset to leave the house. The evening before, the two of them had appeared on television to appeal for Lizzie to come home, for her abductor or attacker, whatever he might be, to release her. Her mother said she was only sixteen, which was already known, and that she had learning difficulties, which was not. Her stepfather was a lot younger than her mother, perhaps ten years, and looked very young. He had long hair and a beard and wore several earrings, all in the same ear. After the television appearance several people phoned Kingsmarkham Police Station and opined that Colin Crowne had murdered his stepdaughter. One said Colin had buried her on the building site down York Street, a quarter of a mile down the road from where the Crownes and Lizzie lived on the Muriel Campden Estate. Another told Detective Sergeant Vine that she had heard Colin Crowne threaten to kill Lizzie "because she was as thick as two planks." "Those folks as go on telly to talk about their missing kids," said a caller who refused to give her name, "they're always the guilty ones. It's always the dad. I've seen it time and time again. If you don't know that, you've no business being in the police." Chief Inspector Wexford thought she was dead. Not because of what the anonymous caller said, but because all the evidence pointed that way. Lizzie had no boyfriend, she was not at all precocious, she had a low IQ and was rather slow and timid. Three evenings before, she had gone with some friends on the bus to the cinema in Myringham, but at the end of the film the other two girls had left her to come home alone. They had asked her to come clubbing with them but Lizzie had said her mother would be worried--the friends thought Lizzie herself was worried at the idea--and they left her at the bus stop. It was just before eight-thirty and getting dark. She should have been home in Kingsmarkham by nine-fifteen, but she didn't come home at all. At midnight her mother had phoned the police. If she had been, well, a different sort of girl, Wexford wouldn't have paid so much attention. If she had been more like her friends. He hesitated about the phrase he used even in his own mind, for he liked to keep to his personal brand of political correctness in his thoughts as well as his speech. Not to be absurd about it, not to use ridiculous expressions like intellectually challenged, but not to be insensitive either and call a girl such as Lizzie Cromwell mentally handicapped or retarded. Besides, she wasn't either of those things, she could read and write, more or less, she had a certain measure of independence and went about on her own. In daylight, at any rate. But she wasn't fit just the same to be left alone after dark on a lonely road. Come to that, what girl was? So he thought she was dead. Murdered by someone. What he had seen of Colin Crowne he hadn't much liked, but he had no reason to suspect him of killing his stepdaughter. True, some years before he married Debbie Cromwell, Crowne had been convicted of assault on a man outside a pub, and he had another conviction for taking and driving away--in other words, stealing--a car. But what did all that amount to? Not much. It was more likely that someone had stopped and offered Lizzie a lift. "Would she accept a lift from a stranger?" Vine had asked Debbie Crowne. "Sometimes it's hard to make her like understand things," Lizzie's mother had said. "She'll sort of say yes and no and smile--she smiles a lot, she's a happy kid--but you don't know if it's like sunk in. Do you, Col?" "I've told her never talk to strangers," said Colin Crowne. "I've told her till I'm blue in the face, but what do I get? A smile and a nod and another smile, then she'll just say something else, something loony, like the sun's shining or what's for tea." "Not loony, Col," said the mother, obviously hurt. "You know what I mean." So when she had been gone three nights and it was the morning of the third day, Colin Crowne and the neighbors on either side of the Crownes on the Muriel Campden Estate started searching for Lizzie. Wexford had already talked to her friends and the driver of the bus she should have been on but hadn't been on, and Inspector Burden and Sergeant Vine had talked to dozens of motorists who used that road daily around about that time. When the rain became torrential, which happened at about four in the afternoon, they called off the search for that day, but they were set to begin again at first light. Taking DC Lynn Fancourt with him, Wexford went over to Puck Road for another talk with Colin and Debbie Crowne. When it was built in the sixties, on an open space that would now be called a "green field area," between the top of York Street and the western side of Glebe Road, the three streets and block of flats on a green in the midst of them, it had been called the York Estate. The then chairman of the housing committee, who had done A Midsummer Night's Dream for his school certificate and was proud of the knowledge thus gained, named the streets after characters in that comedy, Oberon, Titania, and Puck. Excerpted from Harm Done by Ruth Rendell All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

On the day Lizzie came back from the dead the police and her family and neighbors had already begun the search for her body. They worked on the open countryside between Kingsmarkham and Myringham, combing the hillsides and beating through the woods. It was April but cold and wet, and a sharp northeast wind was blowing. Their task was not a pleasant one; no one laughed or joked and there was little talking. Lizzie's stepfather was among the searchers, but her mother was too upset to leave the house. The evening before, the two of them had appeared on television to appeal for Lizzie to come home, for her abductor or attacker, whatever he might be, to release her. Her mother said she was only sixteen, which was already known, and that she had learning difficulties, which was not. Her stepfather was a lot younger than her mother, perhaps ten years, and looked very young. He had long hair and a beard and wore several earrings, all in the same ear. After the television appearance several people phoned Kingsmarkham Police Station and opined that Colin Crowne had murdered his stepdaughter. One said Colin had buried her on the building site down York Street, a quarter of a mile down the road from where the Crownes and Lizzie lived on the Muriel Campden Estate. Another told Detective Sergeant Vine that she had heard Colin Crowne threaten to kill Lizzie "because she was as thick as two planks."
"Those folks as go on telly to talk about their missing kids," said a caller who refused to give her name, "they're always the guilty ones. It's always the dad. I've seen it time and time again. If you don't know that, you've no business being in the police."
Chief Inspector Wexford thought she was dead. Not because of what the anonymous caller said, but because all the evidence pointed that way. Lizzie had no boyfriend, she was not at all precocious, she had a low IQ and was rather slow and timid. Three evenings before, she had gone with some friends on the bus to the cinema in Myringham, but at the end of the film the other two girls had left her to come home alone. They had asked her to come clubbing with them but Lizzie had said her mother would be worried -- the friends thought Lizzie herself was worried at the idea -- and they left her at the bus stop. It was just before eight-thirty and getting dark. She should have been home in Kingsmarkham by nine-fifteen, but she didn't come home at all. At midnight her mother had phoned the police.
If she had been, well, a different sort of girl, Wexford wouldn't have paid so much attention. If she had been more like her friends. He hesitated about the phrase he used even in his own mind, for he liked to keep to his personal brand of political correctness in his thoughts as well as his speech. Not to be absurd about it, not to use ridiculous expressions like intellectually challenged, but not to be insensitive either and call a girl such as Lizzie Cromwell mentally handicapped or retarded. Besides, she wasn't either of those things, she could read and write, more or less, she had a certain measure of independence and went about on her own. In daylight, at any rate. But she wasn't fit just the same to be left alone after dark on a lonely road. Come to that, what girl was?
So he thought she was dead. Murdered by someone. What he had seen of Colin Crowne he hadn't much liked, but he had no reason to suspect him of killing his stepdaughter. True, some years before he married Debbie Cromwell, Crowne had been convicted of assault on a man outside a pub, and he had another conviction for taking and driving away -- in other words, stealing -- a car. But what did all that amount to? Not much. It was more likely that someone had stopped and offered Lizzie a lift.
"Would she accept a lift from a stranger?" Vine had asked Debbie Crowne.
"Sometimes it's hard to make her like understand things," Lizzie's mother had said. "She'll sort of say yes and no and smile -- she smiles a lot, she's a happy kid -- but you don't know if it's like sunk in. Do you, Col?"
"I've told her never talk to strangers," said Colin Crowne. "I've told her till I'm blue in the face, but what do I get? A smile and a nod and another smile, then she'll just say something else, something loony, like the sun's shining or what's for tea."
"Not loony, Col," said the mother, obviously hurt.
"You know what I mean."
So when she had been gone three nights and it was the morning of the third day, Colin Crowne and the neighbors on either side of the Crownes on the Muriel Campden Estate started searching for Lizzie. Wexford had already talked to her friends and the driver of the bus she should have been on but hadn't been on, and Inspector Burden and Sergeant Vine had talked to dozens of motorists who used that road daily around about that time. When the rain became torrential, which happened at about four in the afternoon, they called off the search for that day, but they were set to begin again at first light. Taking DC Lynn Fancourt with him, Wexford went over to Puck Road for another talk with Colin and Debbie Crowne.
When it was built in the sixties, on an open space that would now be called a "green field area," between the top of York Street and the western side of Glebe Road, the three streets and block of flats on a green in the midst of them, it had been called the York Estate. The then chairman of the housing committee, who had done A Midsummer Night's Dream for his school certificate and was proud of the knowledge thus gained, named the streets after characters in that comedy, Oberon, Titania, and Puck.