An April Shroud, by Reginald Hill. Woodstock, Vt.: The Countryman Press/A Foul Play Press Book. 255 pp. $15.95. This first American edition of a novel originally published in London in 1975 is a must-read for fans of Hill's detectives, Andrew Dalziel and Peter Pascoe. It's not, however, the best introduction to the series for a newcomer. Pascoe and his wife, Ellie, are away on their honeymoon, and Dalziel sets out alone on his first vacation in many years. Heavy rains and flooding leave him stranded at a country house in Lincolnshire inhabited by an eccentric family. Several accidental deaths prompt Dalziel to stay longer than he intended. The irascible Dalziel is more sympathetic than usual, partly because Pascoe is not there to bring out the worst in him. Hill's usual humor and good characterization are present; until the last scene, however, the spark ignited by the interaction between Dalziel and Pascoe is missing. The New Girl Friend and Other Stories of Suspense, by Ruth Rendell. New York: Pantheon Books. 172 pp. $13.95.
These 11 haunting, beautifully written stories contain the same suspense, atmosphere, and characterization that are hallmarks of Rendell's novels. In these stories, as in her novels, Rendell explores the dark side of human nature and what happens when ordinary people are thrust into unusual circumstances.
In the title story, which won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America, a young woman's relationship with a friend's husband isn't what it seems to be. This story is the best and the most chilling, surprising the reader right to the very end.