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Ivor Tesham is a handsome, single, young member of Parliament whose political star is on the rise. When he meets a woman in a chance encounter - a beautiful, leggy, married woman named Hebe - the two become lovers obsessed with their trysts, spiced up by what the newspapers like to call "adventure sex. " It's the dress-up and role-play that inspire Ivor to create a surprise birthday present for his beloved that involves a curbside kidnapping. It's all intended as mock-dangerous foreplay, but then things take a dark turn. After things go horribly wrong, Ivor begins to receive anonymous letters that reveal astonishingly specific details about the affair and its aftermath. Somehow he must keep his role from being uncovered - and his political future from being destroyed by scandal. Like a heretic on the inquisitor's rack, Ivor is not to be spared the exquisitely slow and tortuous unfolding of events, as hints, nuances, and small revelations lay his darkest secrets hideously bare for all the world to see. The Birthday Present is a deft, insightful, and compulsively readable exploration of obsessive desire - and the dark twists of fate that can shake the lives of even those most insulated by privilege, sophistication, and power. From the Hardcover edition.
Sometimes it's best to leave the past alone. For when biographer Martin Nanther looks into the life of his famous great-grandfather Henry, Queen Victoria's favorite physician, he discovers some rather unsettling coincidences, like the fact that the doctor married the sister of his recently murdered fiancée. The more Martin researches his distant relative, the more fascinated--and horrified--he becomes. Why did people have a habit of dying around his great grandfather? And what did his late daughter mean when she wrote that he's done "monstrous, quite appalling things"? Barbara Vine (a. k. a. Ruth Rendell) deftly weaves this story of an eminent Victorian with a modern yarn about the embattled biographer, who is watching the House of Lords prepare to annul membership for hereditary peers and thus strip him of his position. Themes of fate and family snake throughout this teasing psychological suspense, a typically chilling tale from a master of the genre.
Both a finely crafted mystery and a disturbingly honest depiction of the kinship between love and madness, The Brimstone Wedding tells an unsettling story about the power and the poison of love. A gracious, dignified woman, who's dying in an English nursing home, reveals the secrets of her erotic past to her young caretaker.From the Hardcover edition.
When their grandmother dies, Grace and Andrew Easton inherit her sprawling, book-filled London home, Dinmont House. Rather than sell it, the adult siblings move in together, splitting the numerous bedrooms and studies. The arrangement is unusual, but ideal for the affectionate pair -- until the day Andrew brings home a new boyfriend. A devilishly handsome novelist, James Derain resembles Cary Grant, but his strident comments about Grace's doctoral thesis soon puncture the house's idyllic atmosphere. When he and Andrew witness their friend's murder outside a London nightclub, James begins to unravel, and what happens next will change the lives of everyone in the house. Just as turmoil sets in at Dinmont House, Grace escapes into reading a manuscript -- a long-lost novel from 1951 called The Child's Child -- never published, owing to its frank depictions of an unwed mother and a homosexual relationship. The book is the story of two siblings born a few years after World War One. This brother and sister, John and Maud, mirror the present-day Andrew and Grace: a homosexual brother and a sister carrying an illegitimate child. Acts of violence and sex will reverberate through their stories. The Child's Child is an ingenious novel-within-a-novel about family, betrayal, and disgrace. A master of psychological suspense, Ruth Rendell, writing as Barbara Vine, takes us where violence and social taboos collide. She shows how society's treatment of those it once considered undesirable has changed -- and how sometimes it hasn't.
An unforgettable tale of mystery and obsession by Barbara Vine (pseudonym of Ruth Rendell, winner of the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award for lifetime achievement)This is the utterly absorbing story of best-selling novelist Gerald Candless, whose sudden death from a heart attack leaves behind a wife and two doting daughters. To sort through her grief, one of his daughters, Sarah, decides to write a biography of her internationally celebrated father. Within hours of beginning her research, Sarah comes across the first of what will be many shocking revelations. As her life is slowly torn apart, a terrible logic finally emerges to explain her mother's remoteness, her father's need to continually reinvent himself in his work, and a long-forgotten London murder. From the Hardcover edition.
"They have sent me here because of what happened on the pylon." When Clodagh Brown writes these words at the age of nineteen, she believes that she is leaving behind the traumatic events of her youth. But Clodagh soon learns that you can never entirely escape your past.In the aftermath of the incident on the pylon--one of the great electrified structures that dot the English countryside like so many gargantuan grasshoppers--Clodagh goes off to university, moves into a basement flat arranged by her unsympathetic family, and finds freedom trekking across London's rooftops with a gang of neighborhood misfits. As she begins a thrilling relationship with a fellow climber, however, both Clodagh and the reader are haunted by the memory of the pylon and of the terrible thing that happened there--and by the eerie sense that another tragedy is just a footfall away. From the Trade Paperback edition.
When Lizzie and Bell meet for tea after nearly two decades apart, the topic of conversation is murder--one that Bell herself committed<P> When Elizabeth Vetch spots Bell for the first time in seventeen years, she chases her down in order to learn why her old friend committed a terrible murder all those years ago. Bell has been in prison ever since the mysterious events that took place at the House of Stairs, a London mansion full of over-privileged, overstuffed, and somewhat sinister boarders, landed her there. Now it's up to Lizzie to put together the pieces of her friend's--and her own--fateful past. As the story behind Bell's crime unfolds, master of suspense Barbara Vine keeps readers guessing at the victim and the motive, letting the sword of Damocles hang over the heads of a fascinating and richly drawn cast of characters.
In the Gold Dagger Award-winning crime novel, a young man writing a history of London's Underground must contend with a killer living under his own roof <P> All his young life, Jarvis Stringer has obsessed over the London Underground. Now he's writing a detailed history of the subway, and to make money in the meantime he rents out cheap rooms in the crumbling former schoolhouse he's inherited, all to desperate single mothers, buskers, subway vigilantes, and assorted misfits. But when one of his boarders turns out to be a murderer, Jarvis becomes distracted from his work--to say the very least. King Solomon's Carpet is an absorbing depiction of London's subterranean landscape and of those eking out invisible lives beneath society's surfaces.
From the author Time magazine calls "the best mystery writer in the English-speaking world," comes an elegant and gripping new novel that blurs the line between psychological suspense and Gothic horror.<P> As soon as Kerstin Kvist arrives at remote, ivy-covered Lydstep Old Hall in Essex, she feels like a character in a gothic novel. A young nurse fresh out of school, Kerstin has been hired for a position with the Cosway family, residents of the Hall for generations. She is soon introduced to her "charge," John Cosway, a thirty-nine-year-old man whose strange behavior is vaguely explained by his mother and sisters as part of the madness that runs in the family. <P> Weeks go by at Lydstep with little to mark the passage of time beyond John's daily walks and the amusingly provincial happenings that engross the Cosway women, and Kerstin occupies her many free hours at the Hall reading or making entries into her diary. Meanwhile, bitter wrangling among Julia Cosway and her four grown daughters becomes increasingly evident. But this is just the most obvious of the tensions that charge the old remote estate, with its sealed rooms full of mystery. Soon Kerstin will find herself in possession of knowledge she will wish she'd never attained, secrets that will propel the occupants of Lydstep Old Hall headlong into sexual obsession, betrayal, and, finally, murder.