Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 258

Illustration of PDF document

Download Harm Done Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Harm Done is Ruth Rendell's 1999 novel chronicling an investigation by the fictitious Inspector Wexford into cases of sexual abuse in the town of Kingsmarkham.

At an early point in the story, Rendell establishes the "latchkey" nature of Kingsmarkham's children; largely ignored by their parents but mature in a different way not seen among earlier generations and perhaps not entirely welcome.

Raised on crisps and chips and chocolate and take-away, they were nevertheless the healthiest generation of children the country has ever known. If one of them had been smacked, he or she would have taken the perpetrator to the European Court of Human Rights. Mental torture was another story.

The maturity of this generation is later reinforced when Lizzie Cromwell, the 16 year-old girl whose disappearance and later reappearance is at the center of the story's plot, is introduced.

Lizzie spoke, though she didn't turn her head. "I'm not a child."

Wexford becomes increasingly involved in Cromwell's case. He is aware of his own attachment, opining that,

he certainly had a problem, but it wasn't one of attitude. Rather, he was allowing himself to be ridiculously involved in this Lizzie Cromwell business.

The book, penned in the late 20th century, is clearly set in the time period in which it was written. At one point, the notion of all of the women of Kingsmarkham acquiring mobile phones is dismissed as ludicrous.

we can't very well put an ad in the Courier offering free communication systems to anyone who applies. As Soutby says, the entire female population would want one.