In the waning months of the Second World War, a group of children discover an earthen tunnel in their neighbourhood outside London. Throughout the summer of 1944 - until one father forbids it - the subterranean space becomes their 'secret garden', where the friends play games and tell stories.
Six decades later, beneath a house on the same land, construction workers uncover a tin box containing two skeletal hands, one male and one female. As the discovery makes national news, the friends come together once again, to recall their days in the tunnel for the detective investigating the case. Is the truth buried among these aging friends and their memories?
This impromptu reunion causes long-simmering feelings to bubble to the surface. Alan, stuck in a passionless marriage, begins flirting with Daphne, a glamorous widow. Michael considers contacting his estranged father, who sent Michael to live with an aunt after his mother vanished in 1944. Lewis begins remembering details about his Uncle James, an army private who once accompanied the children into the tunnels, and who later disappeared.
In The Girl Next Door Rendell brilliantly shatters the assumptions about age, showing that the choices people make - and the emotions behind them - remain as potent in late life as they were in youth.
©2014 Ruth Rendell (P)2014 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
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Critic reviews

"Ruth Rendell is unequivocally the most brilliant mystery writer of our time. She magnificently triumphs in a style that is uniquely hers." (Patricia Cornwell)
"Probably the greatest living crime writer in the world." (Ian Rankin)
"Ruth Rendell has raised the game of the crime novel in this country through the sheer quality of her writing." (Peter James, International bestselling crime thriller novelist)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Kirstine on 29-08-14

More about relationships than a crime novel

As with many of Ruth Rendells’s non-Inspector Wexford novels this book hardly qualifies as a crime/detective story. A crime is committed, and we know from the start who did it, but it isn’t the core of the book. The author creates superficially ordinary people who are actually rather odd and do surprising things. It’s the exploration of the psychology behind their actions that is interesting and keeps one reading/listening.

The narrative switches between the last years of the second World War and the present day and follows the lives and loves of a group a people, who met as children in the Essex town of Loughton, and who are all associated in some way with the people or events surrounding the crime. A crime that was only discovered in modern times and the revelation of which brings the now elderly children back together with life-changing consequences.

I enjoyed the book though I see from Amazon reviews that it has divided readers/listeners. Maybe it appeals to older people who can empathize more easily with the characters.

The narrator is excellent.

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13 of 14 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Susan Random on 02-08-15

Older People And Their Stories

Although this Rendell novel begins with a murder, it acts as a plot device to reunite a group of older people who played in the tunnels located in Loughton, near London during the Second World War. The Batchelor brothers and their respective wives, retired solicitor, Michael Winwood, whose nearly childhood was blighted by danger and neglect and his former next-door-neighbour, Daphne Furness, nee Jones. All of the friends have now scattered throughout London, but the discovery of a pair of entertwined hands in a biscuit tin in the tunnels during the present day have repercussions for all of the group.

The book was extremely compelling and was a great choice to take on holiday. Ric Jerrom was an excellent narrator with a deep, expressive and slightly laconic manner. My only issue is with an aspect of the plot is the unsavoury past incident towards the end. That said, it doesn’t really detract from the quality of the writing.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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