After the Vampires of my last read, this is back to the familiar territory of a police procedural whodunnit. A truffle hunter uncovers a cadaver in a shallow grave on the edge of the village of Flagford, the post mortem determines the victim had been killed 11 years ago, though the cause of death is unknown. It is unlikely someone who died of natural causes would have been buried in a shallow grave. A lot of the book isn’t about who killed the victim, but in identifying who the victim was, a lot of people go missing, the forensics suggest that the victim was a man in his forties. Inspector Wexford and his team go about their business as usual interviewing the villagers, searching through records of missing persons and following Wexford’s uncanny hunches.
A side story in the novel looks at the issue of Female Genital Mutilation. Kingsmarkham, the fictitious town where Wexford’s team are based, has a significant Somali population, and there is concern that one family is looking to get their young daughter circumcised either by going to Somalia or having an “auntie” do the barbaric procedure locally. The FGM has nothing to do with the murder, but is something the author wants to bring to her readers’ attention.
Much of the book consists of detectives searching through missing persons files and questioning and re-questioning persons of interest. Little by little they discover information that leads to the resolution of the case. Ruth Rendell is a master of this sort of fiction, she creates some interesting characters and delves into their psychology.
My rating 4 out of 5