There were some things about Chief Inspector Wexford's trip to China that he could never have dreamt of: That an old woman would haunt him from one city to the next. That a man would be tragically drowned. Or that, back in England, he would be investigating the murder of one of his fellow tourists.
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Under-appreciated gem of mystery writing
This is one of Rendell's very best, in my opinion. Wexford goes on a trip through China. This is the China of the 1980's--tourists have minders and travel conditions are far from luxurious. Wexford experiences the journey almost as a dream. The heat, the long hours on trains, the unfamiliar food, the complete dislocation from his ordinary life, and most of all the repeated glimpses of an old woman with bound feet--combine to create a sense of being in a hallucinatory haze. Back from his journey, he gets involved in a murder connected with one of the people on his tour. Rendell succeeds brilliantly in creating an unforgettable and spellbinding atmosphere.