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The Birthday Present: A Novel

1 rating: 5.0
A book by Barbara Vine

From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com Reviewed by Carolyn See Barbara Vine is the pen name of Ruth Rendell, it's announced clearly here, and I admit I don't quite understand why Ruth Rendell would want to be Barbara Vine, since she … see full wiki

Tags: Books
Author: Barbara Vine
Publisher: Crown
1 review about The Birthday Present: A Novel

A pitch-perfect psychological thriller

  • Apr 8, 2009
Rating:
+5
A slick, up-and-coming Conservative MP, Ivor Tesham, contrives a kinky birthday present for his married lover, Hebe Furnal, and it all goes badly wrong. The woman ends up dead, an apparent kidnapping victim. One of the "perpetrators" also dies and the third languishes in a coma.

This latest psychological thriller from Vine (aka Ruth Rendell) begins dark and grows inevitably darker. It's told in two voices, Ivor's brother-in-law Rob, a dedicated family man, and plain Jane, glamorous Hebe's embittered spinster friend and alibi.

Naturally Ivor hopes to cover things up and succeeds too. But he can't quite leave well enough alone. And there's Jane, of course, who knows all about him. Not that she's interested in blackmail or revenge. All she really wants is to be the next Mrs. Furnal.

We're told from the start that things don't end well for Ivor, not that there would be much doubt. It's the journey that's so riveting. Vine takes us there through character and class, expectations and ambitions, hopes and disappointments.

There are no evil people in this one, just plenty of selfishness, half-baked guile and self-destructive haplessness. Vine winds her way through the human psyche serving up surprises and inevitabilities with spellbinding precision. A page-turner to savor.

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