Can it be a slice of life story if it spans six decades? I guess it really only covers the latter end of those decades, but the story starts with a group of children, friends from nearby neighborhoods, in 1940s England. The children play in some tunnels until they are chased away by Michael’s father, who is mean and scary. Many years later, that group of children is now in their 70s, and a pair of skeletal hands are found in a biscuit tin in their old stomping grounds. They are interviewed by police, and though they had drifted apart over the years, the mystery brings them drifting back together. Old crushes are rekindled, stories are told, and much sherry is drunk.
Except it’s not really a mystery. We’re told right at the beginning that Michael’s father killed his wife and her lover, burned the bodies in his backyard, and send Michael away to live with his aunt. He chopped the hands off because he had seen the pair holding hands and it enraged him. Throughout the story, he’s still alive and in an old folks’ home, having outlived two more wives (one died of natural causes, the other, he hints, did not). So mostly it’s a story of following these old friends living their lives, and how a change in routine unsettles them all in different ways.
It’s a fine story, with good (seriously British) writing, but considering my books usually have an alien or a vampire or a portal to another dimension in them, I found it a little slow. I probably won’t bother with another Rendell book, even though she covered a whole shelf at my library.
P.S. First bit on the Amazon link: “In this psychologically explosive story from ‘one of the most remarkable novelists of her generation’….” Huh. Psychologically explosive is overselling it juuuuust a smidge.