A Dark-Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine: A-

From the back cover:
Like most families, they had their secrets—and hid them under a genteelly respectable veneer. No onlooker would guess that Vera Hillyard and her beautiful sister, Eden, were locked in a dark and bitter combat over one of those secrets. England in the fifties was not kind to women who erred. They had to fight it out behind closed curtains using every weapon they had. And in this case, it was murder.

Barbara Vine is a pen name for Ruth Rendell, whose writing I generally like a great deal. A Dark-Adapted Eye is no exception.

The book can’t be called a mystery, really. The culprit is clear from the beginning, as is the method. What is missing is the why. Told from the point of view of the niece of Vera and Eden Hillyard, we are presented with “warts and all” portraits of the women involved, ultimately leading to the circumstances inspiring the drastic act. It’s very well-done and interesting throughout.

One frustrating thing is that the narrator refers to a variety of people by their given names at the beginning of the book without referencing their relationships, so it takes a bit of time to work out who these people are. I ended up drawing a little family tree to help myself.

I also guessed what “the secret” would turn out to be halfway through the book. There was at least one awesome surprise, though. Definitely recommended.

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