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The Vault

Cover of The Vault

The Vault

Chief Inspector Wexford Series, Book 23
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INCLUDES AN EXCERPT OF RENDELL'S FINAL NOVEL, DARK CORNERS

In the stunning climax to Rendell's classic 1998 novel A Sight for Sore Eyes, three bodies—two dead, one living—are entombed in an underground chamber beneath a picturesque London house. Twelve years later, the house's new owner pulls back a manhole cover, and discovers the vault—and its grisly contents. Only now, the number of bodies is four. How did somebody else end up in the chamber? And who knew of its existence?
With their own detectives at an impasse, London police call on former Kingsmarkham Chief Inspector Wexford, now retired and living with his wife in London, to advise them. Wexford, missing the thrill of a good case, jumps at the chance to sleuth once again. His dogged detective skills and knack for figuring out the criminal mind take him to London neighborhoods, posh and poor, as he follows a complex trail leading back to the original murders a decade ago.

But just as the case gets hot, a devastating family tragedy pulls Wexford back to Kingsmarkham, and he finds himself transforming from investigator into victim. Ingeniously plotted, The Vault is a "masterful" (The Seattle Times) sequel to A Sight for Sore Eyes that will satisfy both longtime Wexford fans and new Rendell readers alike.
INCLUDES AN EXCERPT OF RENDELL'S FINAL NOVEL, DARK CORNERS

In the stunning climax to Rendell's classic 1998 novel A Sight for Sore Eyes, three bodies—two dead, one living—are entombed in an underground chamber beneath a picturesque London house. Twelve years later, the house's new owner pulls back a manhole cover, and discovers the vault—and its grisly contents. Only now, the number of bodies is four. How did somebody else end up in the chamber? And who knew of its existence?
With their own detectives at an impasse, London police call on former Kingsmarkham Chief Inspector Wexford, now retired and living with his wife in London, to advise them. Wexford, missing the thrill of a good case, jumps at the chance to sleuth once again. His dogged detective skills and knack for figuring out the criminal mind take him to London neighborhoods, posh and poor, as he follows a complex trail leading back to the original murders a decade ago.

But just as the case gets hot, a devastating family tragedy pulls Wexford back to Kingsmarkham, and he finds himself transforming from investigator into victim. Ingeniously plotted, The Vault is a "masterful" (The Seattle Times) sequel to A Sight for Sore Eyes that will satisfy both longtime Wexford fans and new Rendell readers alike.
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    1

    ACURIOUS WORLD WE live in," said Franklin Merton, "where one can afford a house but not a picture of a house. That must tell us some profound truth. But what? I wonder."

    The picture he was talking about was Simon Alpheton's Marc and Harriet in Orcadia Place, later bought by Tate Britain--simply "the Tate" in those days--and the house the one in the picture, Orcadia Cottage. His remark about the curious world was addressed to the Harriet of the picture, for whom he had bought it and whom he intended to marry when his divorce came through. Later on, when passion had cooled and they were husband and wife, Franklin said, "I didn't want to get married. I married you because I'm a man of honour and you were my mistress. Some would say my views are out-of-date, but I dispute that. The apparent change is only superficial. I reasoned that no one would want my leavings, so for your sake, the decent thing was to make an honest woman of you."

    His first wife was Anthea. When he deserted her, he was also obliged to desert their dog, O'Hara, and to him that was the most painful thing about it.

    "You don't keep a bitch and bark yourself," he said to Harriet when she protested at having to do all the housework.

    "Pity I'm not an Irish setter," she said, and had the satisfaction of seeing him wince.

    They lived together for five years and were married for twenty-three, the whole time in that house, Orcadia Cottage or number 7a Orcadia Place, London NW8. Owing to Franklin's sharp tongue, verbal cruelty, and indifference, and to Harriet's propensity for sleeping with young tradesmen in the afternoons, it was not a happy marriage. They took separate holidays, Franklin going away ostensibly on his own but in fact with his first wife, and he came back from the last one only to tell Harriet he was leaving. He returned to Anthea and her present Irish setter, De Valera, intending to divorce Harriet as soon as feasible. Anthea, a generous woman, urged him to do his best to search for her, for Harriet couldn't be found at Orcadia Cottage. The largest suitcase, most of her clothes, and the best of the jewellery he had bought her were missing, and Franklin's belief was that she had gone off with her latest young man.

    "She'll be in touch as soon as she's in need," said Franklin to Anthea, "and that won't be long delayed."

    But Harriet never got in touch. Franklin went back to Orcadia Cottage to look for some clue to where she might have gone but found only that the place was exceptionally neat, tidy, and clean.

    "One odd thing," he said. "I lived there for all those years and never went into the cellar. There was no reason to do so. Just the same, I could have sworn there was a staircase going down to it with a door just by the kitchen door. But there isn't."

    Anthea was a much cleverer woman than Harriet. "When you say you could have sworn, darling, do you mean you would go into court, face a jury, and say, 'I swear there was a staircase in that house going down to the cellar'?"

    After thinking about it, Franklin said, "I don't think so. Well, no, I wouldn't."

    He put the house on the market and bought one for Anthea and himself in South Kensington. In their advertisements the estate agents described Orcadia Cottage as "the Georgian home immortalized in the internationally acclaimed artwork of Simon Alpheton." The purchasers, an American insurance broker and his wife, wanted to move in quickly, and when Franklin offered them the report his own surveyors had made thirty years before, they were happy to do without a survey. After all, the house had been there for two hundred years and wasn't likely to fall down now....

About the Author-
  • Ruth Rendell (1930–2015) won three Edgar Awards, the highest accolade from Mystery Writers of America, as well as four Gold Daggers and a Diamond Dagger for outstanding contribution to the genre from England's prestigious Crime Writ­ers' Association. Her remarkable career spanned a half century, with more than sixty books published. A member of the House of Lords, she was one of the great literary figures of our time.
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The Vault
The Vault
Chief Inspector Wexford Series, Book 23
Ruth Rendell
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