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A Dark-Adapted Eye

4.01  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,143 Ratings  ·  279 Reviews
A Dark-Adapted Eye - a prize-winning crime classic by bestselling author Barbara Vine Winner of the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger Award 'A rich, complex and beautifully crafted novel' P.D. James 'Compulsively readable ... a carefully devised plot unfolded with the most cunning art. Wilkie Collins and Dickens would have admired it' Sunday Times Like most families t ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published June 23rd 2009 by Penguin Canada (first published January 1st 1986)
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Andrew Corrie There is a welter of family names introduced in the first couple of chapters. I use a pencil and paper and draw the family tree as I go along - in…moreThere is a welter of family names introduced in the first couple of chapters. I use a pencil and paper and draw the family tree as I go along - in fact in ch 1 you cannot know who everyone is and I had to make a couple of corrections.

Jessica has put down the most important relations. There are a couple of others you could add, too. The cousin Jamie, dumped by Tony Pearmain on the "Contessa", and who was/is living in Florence - well, where he fits in is the nub of the story....(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Barbara
Dec 05, 2009 Barbara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: MARIA, KELLY
Recommended to Barbara by: CYNTHIA , TERESA & MERILEE
Shelves: mystery, suspense
This book was apparently Ruth Rendell's introduction as Barbara Vine. One could not, by any means, classify this as a typical suspense mystery. It is clearly,as we have become better acquainted with Vine, one of sophisticated, intricate and complex plotting. To rehash the details of this tale is unnecessary here, for many others have done so.It is not a fast moving novel, but one of subtlety and careful, deliberate attention to details.

This is the story of an English family, traced through the
...more
Heather
Jan 16, 2009 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When a journalist contacts Faith Severn in the interest of writing a book about the execution of her aunt Vera Hillyard, Faith slowly reveals and unravels the story of the Hillyard family complete in it's complicities and claustrophobias. After her parents' death, Vera leaves her young son and military husband in the care of others and undertakes the role of mother to her younger sister, Eden. Vera and Eden's relationship is extremely close and secretive, often excluding all other parties. Livin ...more
Bill
Feb 06, 2008 Bill rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-suspense
There's a running joke between me and a friend of mine about jazz music. We'd be out at a club or jazz festival, and once the music moves into an obscure fusion phase, he'd lean over to me and say, "See, here's where the music gets too smart for me".

I had a similar feeling after finishing this novel. There were far too many characters to keep track of and I actually had to write down on a piece of paper the family tree to have any hope of continuing to read forward.
While I admire her for coming
...more
Sue
Mar 02, 2012 Sue rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sue by: Barbara
Wow what an introduction to Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine. I suppose this would be considered a psychological suspense mystery, where the suspense is maintained throughout the novel even though the reader knows very early that a murder has occurred and a murderer has hanged. So many have reviewed this book that I don't feel the need to say much but, if you haven't yet read any of this series (as I hadn't), run to your library or bookstore and begin. Since this is the first of Rendell's books writing ...more
Syl  ʃʃ^.^ʃʃ
Jan 01, 2016 Syl ʃʃ^.^ʃʃ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all psychological thriller buffs
My first book of 2016. One of my favourite authors, as well as favourite genre.
Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine always delivers what she promises to -i.e., toothy, dark, psychological mysteries, with lots of troubled minds and secrets, with a murder or two thrown in, which can be either immediate, or long forgotten.
This is the first book written by Ruth Rendell as Barbara Vine, and towards the end, she gives an explanation about both her names, which is as interesting as the story she has written.
In a
...more
Nancy Oakes
More later, but in my opinion, this is Rendell/Vine at her very best. It's also one of the most powerful stories she's ever written, and I've read most of them so I feel okay about making that statement.
Margaret
Jan 28, 2014 Margaret rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This was hard work. It has the flavour of a police report or schoolboy essay - it's very important to get all the information in & detail exactly who all the characters are & what they ate but style or interest are alien concepts to the author. It's very dry & it took me a long time to get into it. The novel seems to be building to some climactic revelation but there is none. There is a sort of a secret but this is telegraphed from the start so hardly any kind of surprise when the na ...more
Sara
Oct 11, 2011 Sara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like slow-paced psychological explorations
I read this because of the note I found at the end of Rendell's Shake Hands Forever, describing why she began the Barbara Vine series. Evidently she was always called by two names, since her mother's Scandinavian family had trouble pronouncing Ruth. And they came to symbolize two different personalities for her.

She describes them this way:
"Ruth and Barbara are two aspects of me. Ruth is tougher, colder, more analytical, possibly more aggressive. Ruth has written all the novels, created Chief In
...more
Chaitra
I hadn't read any books of Barbara Vine or of her other name Ruth Rendell. I went in to this with no expectations whatsoever. What I found was a tightly plotted yarn, but at the same time, it moved at a glacial pace. There's a subversion almost, of the whodunnit mystery genre. Vine tells us immediately who the killer was, and who got killed. It's the whys and wherefores that we are concerned with in the rest of the novel.

Faith Severn, the niece of the hanged murderess Vera Hillyard, is approache
...more
Dennis Henn
Imagine driving down a country highway. The posted speed limit is 55 and you are stuck following a vehicle traveling at 40. You pull off on an alternate route hoping to speed the drive up. Unfortunately you find yourself now traveling behind a combine going 30. You can't deny the landscape is beautiful and that your car runs well is a bonus. That, however, does nothing to alleviate the frustration of such a slow ride. Distracted, you get lost, and finally forget where you were heading.
That was m
...more
Cheryl
Sep 01, 2015 Cheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-written psychological novel about a murder and its effect on a family.
Jenny
Jul 22, 2014 Jenny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-crime, kindle
If you are looking for a light, easy to read book where the ending ties everything up in a neat bow, then this is not the book for you.

This is a complex read where the narrator slowly unfolds events of the past. We are introduced to a vast array of family and friends, some important, some mere names, but we don't know who is important and who is not. The time frame shifts and changes as the narrator, Faith, recalls almost at random, events from the past.

For the first few chapters I was left ad
...more
M.J. Johnson
Jan 31, 2014 M.J. Johnson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have just read my very first Barbara Vine novel, A Dark Adapted Eye. Once I'd finished it, I took a quick peek at some of the reader reviews that have been posted for the book on Goodreads. They are fascinating and insightful, again driving it home to me that a reader's experience with a novel, though in some part down to mood and situation, is often a matter of whether or not the book (assuming the work itself is basically sound!) finds the audience the author hoped to reach.

I understand A Da
...more
Kay
Mar 30, 2014 Kay rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I enjoy most of the books by Barbara Vine/Ruth Rendell; this was not one of them. I was very focused while reading this story but I still had a difficult time following all the different characters that appeared periodically throughout the book. I found myself going back through the text multiple times to figure out what the character's role was. This happened throughout the read. Maybe it is my failing. It is not a very suspenseful book; the story builds the end toward what is revealed in the b ...more
Mike
Dec 21, 2015 Mike rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-popular
Two sisters, devoted to each other over many years, one carrying for the other like a mother. How could the older ever have been convicted of killing the younger?

This is the question that the novel attempts to answer. Well written, it is a story of a British family over a twenty year period from the 1930s up to 1950. On the surface, a perfectly proper (if snobby) family situation. But peel the facade away to reveal a properly dysfunctional scene of obsession taken to the breaking point.

This boo
...more
DeAnna Knippling
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Heather
Wonderful, tragic, amazingly ambiguous book that demands to be read more than once. I love Vine/Rendell's courage in leaving the central enigma unsolved. I love the way she gradually creates sympathy for Vera, who in the beginning of the book seems absolutely unsalvageable... not because she's a convicted murderess, but because she was so unkind, exacting, hysterical, narrow-minded, and cold when her niece was young. It doesn't seem possible that this horrible woman could end as a figure of such ...more
Victoria
May 20, 2008 Victoria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
Not your typical mystery, for what is in doubt here is not whodunnit or what they have done - we are told from the outset that Vera is to be hanged for murder - but who the victim is and why the crime was committed.

Using flashbacks (something I usually dislike, but which Vine is an absolute master at) Vera's neice tells us how the whole situation came about, using as a frame to the novel the fact that someone wants to write about her aunt's crime and trial.

And so the reader is dragged into a tig
...more
Amy
Oct 31, 2015 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: who-dunnit
This book would have been 5 stars except for a pesky issue I had with a device used to build suspense and keep from giving away future revelations. There are lots of characters in this story, most related, which can make it confusing enough; but sprinkling their first names only into the action before explaining who they were had me flipping back and forth quite a bit. It got so bad that I wrote out a family tree to reference.

However, once you have the characters in place in your head, the stor
...more
James
Apr 11, 2013 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, crime, family
Ahhhhh - what a splendid novel. I finished the book with a deep sigh of content and a great appreciation for the fiercely intelligent and moving story that unfolded relentlessly. Ostensibly this novel is about a murder long past but vividly remembered. From the rocketing start the book oozes foreboding and menace while confidently announcing both the murdered and the murderer, the tension builds as the circle of victims and accomplices ever increases. A splendid start, a tense middle and a shock ...more
Chris
A great human desire driven gothic novel about a family. Vine (Rendell) has the ability to make the reader even feel sorry for the murderer. This is an incredibly well done book.
Lobstergirl
Oct 20, 2014 Lobstergirl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Milo Hastings

From the very first chapter of A Dark-Adapted Eye we know that a woman has been hanged for the crime of murdering her sister. What we don't know is why. Ruth Rendell, writing as Barbara Vine, takes us back and forth (and back and forth, and back and forth) from the 1950s to the present (the 70s or 80s), to the 1890s, the 1930s, the 40s, the present again, etc. Our first-person narrator, Faith Severn (the hanged woman's niece), introduces characters without telling us right away how they fit into
...more
Margaret
Jan 01, 2016 Margaret rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Since I like Ruth Rendell, I thought I'd try her alter ego, Barbara Vine. This edition of Rendell's first book as Vine has an interesting little afterword by the author, discussing her decision to write books under another name, one she thinks of as another aspect of herself; she says she thought books by Barbara rather than Ruth would turn out "a softer voice...more sensitive perhaps, and more intuitive". Indeed, A Dark-Adapted Eye is more introspective and more slowly paced than those of Rende ...more
Kate
Jul 23, 2009 Kate rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kate by: Mary Ann
Shelves: age-adult, mystery, 2009
This was recommended to me by a coworker who said it was very creepy...

Faith has lived under the shadow of her aunt Vera, who was hanged for murder when Faith was in college. Years later, she receives word from a man who wants to write a book about Vera's crime and her motives. This takes Faith on a trip down memory lane, where the reader gains insight into a strange family dynamic that leads to murder.

It was a slow read. I found it a bit difficult to get into. I was intrigued by the dynamics of
...more
Kachina
Aug 23, 2014 Kachina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this one soon after reading "Portobello" by the same author... wow, what a different kind of book. I never would have guessed it was written by the same woman. With its themes of sisters and family secrets and wartime in England, it felt much like a Kate Morton novel. I enjoyed it a lot!
Moonlight Reader
Read with my Kindle Unlimited free trial

Dark, dense, thorny, repressed, slightly obscure, and all-around fucked up with some highly unlikable, yet still curiously human, characters.
Celia
May 29, 2013 Celia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is the second novel by Barbara Vine (aka Ruth Rendell) that I have read and the second disappointment. Long a fan of Rendell's Wexford novels, I just can't seem to find a way into the ones she writes under the name Barbara Vine. This Edgar Award winner was long, full of unpleasant characters and murky motives, and finished with a ho-hum ending. I find that people keeping secrets, both seriously and for entertainment, is an intriguing idea, but in this case the secrets weren't worth all the ...more
Tony
A DARK-ADAPTED EYE. (1986). Barbara Vine. ***.
This was the first novel as by Barbara Vine, a.k.a. Ruth Rendell. It was also the winner of an Edgar Award for Best novel in its year of publication. It tells the story of a murder that was committed years earlier by the aunt of the narrator. The aunt was subsequently tried and convicted of the crime, then hanged. This is not a page turner of suspense. It was Ms. Vine’s intent to tell the story slowly and in great detail through the memory of Faith –
...more
Christine Cody
Jul 18, 2015 Christine Cody rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Writing as Barbara Vine, the award-winning mystery novelist Ruth Rendell began her third strand of writing with this absorbing story about a family, its memories, and the secrets surrounding the trial and execution of the narrator’s aunt 30 years earlier. As with subsequent books in this series, this psychological crime novel deconstructs human misunderstanding, family secrets, and hidden crimes. In her review, Fresh Air’s Maureen Corrigan wrote, “Many years ago, a friend left a copy of A Dark-A ...more
Mary Catherine
Aug 20, 2007 Mary Catherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really love Barbara Vine's (aka Ruth Rendell) books. They all have a very dark tone to them and place their emphasis not on "whodunit" but on "why."

This book is no exception. A woman whose aunt was hanged for murder tells the gripping story of how the murder came to happen. We know from the first page who the killer is and who the victim is, and yet as the book goes on, it becomes more and more interesting and harder to put down.
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Pseudonym of Ruth Rendell.

Rendell created a third strand of writing with the publication of A Dark Adapted Eye under her pseudonym Barbara Vine in 1986. Books such as King Solomon's Carpet, A Fatal Inversion and Anna's Book (original UK title Asta's Book) inhabit the same territory as her psychological crime novels while they further develop themes of family misunderstandings and the side effects
...more
More about Barbara Vine...

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