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WHEN LIVES COLLIDE

Three lives converge inexorably in "A Sight for Sore Eyes," Ruth Rendell's disturbing new novel. It marks still another notch in her remarkable career as perhaps the finest current creator of the British literary mystery.

Rendell, who lives in London and has produced 42 books in 34 years, has been acclaimed by critics, has won top prizes awarded by the British Crime Writers Association and the Mystery Writers of America and has been appointed to her country's House of Lords.

Her trio of principal characters in "A Sight for Sore Eyes" has lived desperate lives in their early years: Francine was discovered sitting by her mother's body, struck mute by the trauma; Teddy, ignored by his parents, unable to cope and on his way to becoming a sociopath and killer; and Harriet, unhappily married to an older man and entertaining young handymen in her bed.

Their lives have moved on, toward convergence, and when they come together there's a highly charged and extremely volatile result.

This harrowing and unforgettable tale of psychological suspense is vintage Rendell. This means, according to critics, that it's "profoundly insightful and cathartic."
A SIGHT FOR SORE EYES
By Ruth Rendell
Crown
327 pages, $24

More thrills, briefly
Biting the Moon, by Martha Grimes; Holt, 384 pages, $25 -- Martha Grimes has temporarily shelved her popular mystery novels featuring Police Inspector Richard Jury and created a new series that will focus on young heroines dedicated to the prevention of animal abuse.

The author's initial venture into the latter is "Biting the Moon." It introduces a young girl who awakes one morning in a bed-and-breakfast in Santa Fe, N.M., with no memory of who she is or how she got there.

She calls herself Andi, after the nearby Sandia Crest mountains, and links up with another like-minded adolescent, Mary Dark Hope. The pair begins a dangerous trek across country to find the mystery man who purportedly left Andi at the B & B. Only he, Sandi feels, can help her identify her real self.

The girls follow where Andi believes her quarry may have gone. The story develops into a series of fast-paced episodes involving illegal animal trapping, white-water boating, dog fights, animal hunts, abduction and murder.

Along the way, Andi and Mary Dark Hope expose the animal cruelty they find to others. Grimes' purpose is laudable and, given her expertise at narrative persuasion, it's certain to stir serious reader interest.