Recommended Read – A Dark Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine

12 July 2022

Diamond Crime author, Thorne Moore, recommends this book because: “this was the first book that showed me crime fiction could be less about the untangling of clues and puzzles and more about the untangling of people’s confused emotions, desires and impulses.

Faith, as an adult, recounts her time as a girl in the war, sent to stay with aunts Vera and Eden in rural East Anglia. It’s a carefully regulated life of snobbery, ritual teas and repressed emotions, where so much human frailty is never countenanced but always present and where family relationships, seemingly the most natural in the world, are really a heaving morass of love and hate, possessiveness, jealousy, desperation and spite.

A Dark Adapted Eye is not a thriller. It’s a dissection of cause and effect, the shocking outcome made clear from the start. Young Faith wakes to watch the clock, waiting for the exact moment when her aunt Vera will die. This is one death that can be predicted to the minute: “The death that takes its victim,

… feet foremost through the floor

Into an empty space.

It was the very first chapter that made the greatest impression on me, feeding my conviction that no actions, including crimes, are neat; they don’t end in satisfying closure but produce a never-ending wave of consequences that spill out engulfing all around, and in the future, through generations. Vera Hillyard committed a murder and was hanged. As far as the judicial system was concerned, that was it. End of story. But for Vera’s family, living with the consequences of her act and through the moment of her execution, the shadow will follow them forever. What did happen? How did it happen? Why did it happen? There is no simple answer to any of it. The untangling goes on, but ends are never neatly tied up.


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One Comment

  1. Alex Craigie 13 July 2022 at 11:01 pm - Reply

    I read many of her books under the both the Vine and Rendell names. I think I’d like to revisit some of them now.

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