Last Updated on May 10, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 276
A reviewer of The Veiled One has called Reg Wexford "the coziest, most approachable, least angst-ridden detective in today's major-league crime fiction," seeing Wexford's essentially well-adjusted composure as a necessary antidote to the baleful murk through which he plies his trade. Wexford's England has nothing to do with the tidy vicarages and romantic moors of other British crime writers. He must function amid pretentious phoniness, like the shopping center decked out in pseudo-medieval castle trappings, and a suspect's home hung with all-enveloping ivy.
Wexford is mature enough, secure enough, to be able to see beyond the facade of this crime, which appears to be the work of a random-striking homicidal maniac. But when he is temporarily incapacitated by the explosion of his daughter's car, the investigation passes to his right-hand man Mike Burden, himself an edgy new father groping into a second family as uncomfortable to him as the just-bought jeans that replace his former business suits. Burden's obsessive conviction that he has found the psychopath conceals both the identity of the real murderer and Burden's own capacity for error. Finally, Wexford humanely unravels the entanglement, smiling wryly to himself when he hears Burden admit for the first time, "We live and learn."
Rendell consistently succeeds with her dispassionate portraits of aberrant criminal behavior. The Veiled One overtly plays an unnatural mother-son combination against Wexford's healthy relationship with his daughter Sheila, making Clifford Sanders, the disturbed son of the woman who discovers the garrotted body at the beginning of the novel, eerily real. Rendell's psychological study of Sanders reveals both his fears and the twisted love that underlie the murders which open and close this case.
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