Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 222
Ruth Wendell is an acclaimed English author of murder mysteries and psychological thrillers. The main themes of her novel Harm Done (published in 2000) are pedophilia and child abuse, spousal abuse, and the broader concept of justice. It is one of Wendell's dozens of novels that feature Inspector Reginald Wexford as protagonist.
The story begins with the abduction of the young Lizzie Cromwell, who later turns up unharmed. Her kidnapping is followed by two others (first of another working class girl, then of an upper-class girl). Meanwhile, during the course of Inspector Wexford's investigations into the kidnapping, a pedophile is released from prison, evoking the natural suspicion of several of the town's residents. Additionally, the theme of spousal abuse is addressed in Wendell's novel. The mother of the third kidnapped child seems to be textbook case of spousal abuse. Finally, there is a bomb thrown in the neighborhood of the pedophile, which results in the death of a local policemen. This altercation represents a third type of violence: mob violence.
Ultimately, the novel claims that violence (child, spousal, or other abuse) is not bounded by social class or demographic, and that legal justice is not always morally unambiguous. The novel also invites its readers to explore the diverse motivations for violence. The page-turning prose, too, keeps readers sufficiently engaged to explore these questions.