The Portobello area of West London has a rich personality - vibrant, brilliant in colour, noisy, with graffiti that approach art, bizarre and splendid. An indefinable edge to it adds a spice of danger. There is nothing safe about Portobello...
Eugene Wren inherited an art gallery from his father near an arcade that now sells cashmere, handmade soaps and children's clothes. But he decided to move to a more upmarket site in Kensington Church Street. Eugene was fifty, with prematurely white hair. He was, perhaps, too secretive for his own good. He also had an addictive personality. But he had cut back radically on his alcohol consumption and had given up cigarettes. Which was just as well, considering he was going out with a doctor. For all his good intentions, though, there was something he didn't want her to know about...
On a shopping trip one day, Eugene, quite by chance, came across an envelope containing money. He picked it up. For some reason, rather than report the matter to the police, he wrote a note and stuck it up on lamppost near his house:
'Found in Chepstow Villas, a sum of money between eighty and a hundred and sixty pounds. Anyone who has lost such a sum should apply to the phone number below.'
This note would link the lives of a number of very different people - each with their obsessions, problems and dreams and despairs. And through it all the hectic life of Portobello would bustle on.
"With this captivating novel, the reigning queen of crime fiction establishes that an unsolved murder is not a necessary ingredient of a suspense-filled mystery ... Her deft sculpturing of characters idiosyncratic obsessions and foibles betrays a shrewdness of perception of which even the absent Wexford would be proud."
"A roundabout of characters is set whirling along in an irresistibly readable, tragi-comic carnival. Dr Johnson's dictum could be amended here: the reader who is tired of Ruth Rendell's novel of London is tired of life"
"A thriller steeped in psychological intrigue ... Rendell's prose style is as succinct and accessible as ever"
"Ruth Rendell is marvellous at psychological tension ... Rendell is too clever and too accomplished to serve up the expected. She supplies a satisfying, rather low-key ending in which she knits all the threads together with a casual flourish that shows veteran expertise"
"Impossible to put down ... Rendell, at her most sardonic here, may view all her characters as creatures who live under stones but it is her sense of place that counts. She makes you smell the excitement and desperation. Portobello is as brilliant as anything she has ever written"