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A Sight for Sore Eyes, A


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A pair of English teens, Teddy and Francine (who have grown up in dysfunctional families where common parenting faults are taken to extremes), meet and think that in each other they might find the beauty and freedom their own lives are lacking. Their troubled affair takes a while to get going, but once it does, Rendell's sharp characterizations and idiosyncratic descriptions are riveting. Though several deaths occur in the book, the only real mystery is that of the murder of Francine's mother, which Francine overheard (near the novel's beginning) when she was seven. Instead, Rendell (Road Rage, etc.) focuses more on how a few sedately bizarre ticks can build exponentially into insanity. Francine's stepmother, for example, progresses from simple worry about her stepdaughter's well-being to obsessive anxiety that borders on dementia. Rendell follows the story's principal objects as closely as she does its characters: the diamond and sapphire engagement ring that Teddy's indifferent mother finds in a public bathroom; the video case in which Francine's mother hid her love letters, the painting of two young lovers that shows Teddy the perfect beauty he would kill for. Rendell leaves nothing and no one unaccounted for, from the looks given by the neighbors over the fence to the idle thoughts that pass through characters' minds when they scan a room. A tour-de-force of psychological suspense, the novel culminates in a dramatic climax that's as unforgettable as what has preceded it. Mystery Guild main selection; Literary Guild featured alternate; simultaneous audio and large print editions; author tour. (Mar.)

With almost 50 books to her credit, Rendell has the knack of drawing readers in and holding them through the last page. In her latest psychological thriller she intertwines the stories of three somewhat damaged characters whose lives intersect in a most unfortunate way. First there is Francine, who witnessed her mother's murder at age seven and has been suffocated by an obsessively overprotective father and stepmother ever since. Teddy, born to indifferent parents, is now an adult with almost no social skills and a penchant for using murder to remove obstacles in his path. Finally, there is Harriet. Once beautiful and the subject of a famous painting, she is now bored, rich, and used to having affairs with repairmen in her quest for constant attention. The story is filled with tension, and Rendell is so adept at keeping the reader guessing that it's almost a relief to finish and be able to relax again. Recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/98.]‘Caroline Mann, Univ. of Portland Lib., OR

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