Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Dark-Adapted Eye” as Want to Read:
A Dark-Adapted Eye
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Dark-Adapted Eye

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  7,121 ratings  ·  462 reviews
Vera Hillyard. My aunt, and murderess.

Faith Severn's life has long been overshadowed by the scandal of her aunt's execution for murder. For nearly 25 years she has tried to forget the woman she once spent her holidays with, who seemed such a perfect mother and caring sister. Now the time has come to piece together the mystery. What secret caused two devoted sisters to
Mass Market Paperback, 278 pages
Published October 1st 1993 by Plume (first published January 1st 1986)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Dark-Adapted Eye, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Janet M Glen, hope this helps and saves you a lot of trouble and note-taking!

1859 William Longley marries Amelia Jackman
They have 3 daughters, incl Amelia,…more
Glen, hope this helps and saves you a lot of trouble and note-taking!

1859 William Longley marries Amelia Jackman
They have 3 daughters, incl Amelia, and Clara ("Clo"), and (?)
and in 1867, one son Arthur William Longley

1890 Arthur Longley marries Maud Richardson (a rich gal, dad is Abel Richardson)
1896 They have one daughter, Helen
1901 one (stillborn?) son when Maud dies in childbirth
Helen goes to live w/rich grandparents, the Abel Richardsons

1906 Arthur Longley marr. Ivy Naughton (b.1878)
[Ivy has an aunt Priscilla Naughton & a cousin Elizabeth Naughton Whitestreet.]
Arthur's bro-in-law James Hubbard is marr. to his sister Amelia, btw.

1907 twins are born to Arthur & Ivy:
[their godparents are Priscilla and Helen]
John William Longley
Vera Ivy Longley
[1919 Arthur & Ivy Longley family settle in Great Sindon @ Laurel Cottage]
1922 dau. Edith (Eden) born to Arthur & Ivy (age 44)
1936 Ivy dies

1919 the twins' & Eden's half-sister Helen Longley marr. General Victor Chatteriss and in 1925 they move to India.
To the Chatterisses are born Patricia and Andrew.

The twins:
1926 Vera Longley marr. Gerald Hillyard
1927 son Francis born

1928 John Longley marr. Vranni Breuer
Vranni (b.1905 in another country) was a lodger of Elizabeth Naughton Whitestreet [Eliz. was John's 2nd cousin by his mom Ivy]
1928 daughter Faith born
Faith is, of course, narrator of the story.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,121 ratings  ·  462 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of A Dark-Adapted Eye
Feb 06, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Dec 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A crime has been committed by Vera Hillyard and she was charged, convicted and executed (with few hints about the victim and motive). 30 years later, A reporter who wants to write a biography of Vera approaches a woman called Faith (who is Vera's niece) and ask for her help. So Faith accepts the task and while she at it, recalls the events of the past, where Vera's story is slowly revealed from the distant past until the moment of the murder.

I would have give it 5 stars if the beginning wasn't
Oct 09, 2009 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
Nancy Oakes
Feb 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Dennis Henn
Jun 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Bionic Jean
The hands of the watch stood at five past eight.
The only kind of death that can be accurately predicted to the minute had taken place, the death that takes its victim,

feet foremost through the floor,
Into an empty space.

This is from the first chapter of Barbara Vines book A Dark-Adapted Eye, which was first published in 1986. It was the first novel by this particular name, but not by this author. The reason? Barbara Vine is a pseudonym for Ruth Rendell.

Ruth Rendell had already established her
Jan 16, 2009 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Dec 06, 2010 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
Elizabeth (Alaska)
Most mysteries begin with a dead body. This one begins with a hanging of the murderer. Who was murdered is not immediately apparent. In fact, not only is the victim unknown, the usual facts about a murder are entirely unknown to the reader: when, where, how, why. While the reader with only a minimal imagination can determine the probable victim, the remainder of the facts are left unknown until the last 25-30 pages.

The story is told in the first person, but the narrator knows a lot of
Jan 17, 2014 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 ...more
Bruce Beckham
Oct 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
Daft as it may seem, I make a point of avoiding reviews before I read a book. However, I had a notion that A Dark Adapted Eye was a bit different. Indeed, something of a groundbreaker, back in the day.

But having DNFd for the second time, I perhaps ought to have broken my rule.

As a big fan of Ruth Rendell, I have grown to appreciate her pared ascetic prose. Goodreads tells me I have read 3 other of her Barbara Vines, but I dont recall such a dense literary style as employed in this novel. Now, Im
Jul 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
M.J. Johnson
Jan 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Oct 11, 2011 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
Jul 10, 2015 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
This classic crime mystery is on sale for Kindle right now at $1.99. You can get yours here . It's been on my TBR for eons! Maybe I'll get to it soon.
Dec 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
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
Mar 30, 2014 rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Nov 17, 2015 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.

Aug 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-written psychological novel about a murder and its effect on a family.
May 19, 2008 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
May 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
I can't say I liked this much it is relentlessly sordid and unpleasant but I think it is well done for what it is. The author has succeeded in creating characters so unattractive and unsympathetic our narrator, a young member of the family who gradually presents us with the story of her family's embarrassing history, constantly reminds us of what selfish, sneaky, pretentious people they are that there is not much chance the reader will feel anything but the mildest curiosity about the whys ...more
Jul 04, 2015 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
After 25 novels Rendell found herself writing the story of family secrets in the second world war, a novel so different from her usual concerns that she felt the need to signal the shift by adopting a nom-de-plume.
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.
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some decades ago, not so long after the end of World War II, Faith's Aunt Vera was hanged for the murder of Faith's Aunt Eden, and now a true crime writer wants to write a book about the case, the trial and the execution. As Faith decides whether or not to help him, and then how she might best do so, her memories of the events leading up to the murder, and of all the personalities involved, slowly resolve themselves until she -- and we -- gain a clearer picture of what went on, and the family ...more
Bibi Rose
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 31, 2009 rated it liked it
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
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 ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Thirteen Steps Down
  • Simisola (Inspector Wexford, #16)
  • Live Flesh
  • From Doon With Death (Inspector Wexford, #1)
  • The Bridesmaid
  • Harm Done (Inspector Wexford, #18)
  • End in Tears (Inspector Wexford, #20)
  • A Judgement in Stone
  • The Tree of Hands
  • An Unkindness of Ravens (Inspector Wexford, #13)
  • The Crocodile Bird
  • A Demon in My View
  • The Water's Lovely
  • A Sight for Sore Eyes
  • The Best Man to Die (Inspector Wexford, #4)
  • The Monster in the Box (Inspector Wexford, #22)
  • Speaker of Mandarin (Inspector Wexford, #12)
  • Road Rage (Inspector Wexford, #17)
See similar books…
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

Related Articles

If you love a page-turning mystery, you are in for a treat this month. We're seeing a great assortment of highly anticipated mysteries and thril...
7 likes · 0 comments
“The hands of the watch stood at five past eight. The only kind of death that can be accurately predicted to the minute had taken place, the death that takes its victim, … feet foremost through the floor, Into an empty space. 2 THREE TIMES IN THE past thirty-five years I had seen her name in print.” 0 likes
More quotes…