End in Tears (Chief Inspector Wexford Series #20)

( 11 )


"A lump of concrete dropped deliberately from a little stone bridge over a relatively unfrequented road kills the wrong person. The driver behind is spared. But only for a while... It is impossible for Chief Inspector Wexford not to wonder how terrible it would be to discover that one of his daughters had been murdered. Sylvia has always been a cause for concern. Living alone with her two children, she is pregnant again. What will happen to the child? The relationship between father and daughter has always been uneasy. But the current situation
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End in Tears (Chief Inspector Wexford Series #20)

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"A lump of concrete dropped deliberately from a little stone bridge over a relatively unfrequented road kills the wrong person. The driver behind is spared. But only for a while... It is impossible for Chief Inspector Wexford not to wonder how terrible it would be to discover that one of his daughters had been murdered. Sylvia has always been a cause for concern. Living alone with her two children, she is pregnant again. What will happen to the child? The relationship between father and daughter has always been uneasy. But the current situation also provokes an emotional division between Wexford and his wife, Dora." One particular member of the local press is gunning for the Chief Inspector, distinctly unimpressed with what he regards as old-fashioned police methods. But Wexford, with his old friend and partner, Mike Burden, along with two new recruits to the Kingsmarkham team, pursue their inquiries with a diligence and humanity.
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Editorial Reviews

Kevin Allman
Rendell casts a particularly wry eye at Wexford's attempts to adapt to particulars of today's world, from unwed mothers to global warming and quite a bit more. At the top of that list is Wexford's extraordinarily politically correct subordinate, Hannah Goldsmith, ever on guard for displays of racism or sexism, who finds herself attracted to an Indian inspector whose courtship manners are strictly Old World. Goldsmith provides the mystery with humor, a touch of romance and its inevitable hairsbreadth escape.
— The Washington Post
Marilyn Stasio
Within the flexible moral framework of Rendell’s world, all it takes is a murder to bring out the nastiness in everyone. She’s flat-out brilliant at using her quintessentially decent detective and his family, along with his colleagues on the Kingsmarkham police force, to test whatever issues happen to be upending the established order. While not as suspenseful as her non-series crime novels or as dark as the psychological thrillers she writes as Barbara Vine, this carefully plotted whodunit functions as both a subtle case study in the criminal aberrations of parental love and a sly object lesson in the evils of intolerance.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Bestseller Rendell's riveting new novel in her Chief Inspector Wexford series (The Babes in the Wood, etc.) links two disparate worlds-a child-surrogacy ring and the construction trade. A teenage mother, Amber Marshalson, is found dead in the grass outside her home in Kingsmarkham, her skull crushed by a piece of brick. A short time later, Amber's pregnant friend, Megan Bartlow, turns up murdered in a seedy, about-to-be-rehabbed Victorian row house. Suspicions center on a tall man wearing a hooded fleece jacket. Against this sinister backdrop stands Wexford, who's in lion-in-winter mode. He's irked and perplexed by modern life, by the casual way young girls conceive babies, by the sprawl devouring the once-lush Sussex countryside, even by his own fractious family. But he never loses the anger and dedication that propel him to solve crimes and understand evil. While Rendell fans may find this not quite up to the level of her most recent non-Wexford, Thirteen Steps Down (2005), they should be well satisfied. (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Whether writing as Barbara Vine or under her own name, Rendell (Thirteen Steps Down) is an icon in the mystery-writing genre. With more than 50 novels to her credit, she shows no signs of slowing down or losing her touch. In this, her 20th Chief Inspector Wexford mystery, Rendell lays out a complex story of murder in which maternal instinct goes awry. From two seemingly unrelated deaths to an intricate scam promising surrogacy services to hopeful parents, the plot is so complicated (and sometimes happenstance) that even the detectives in the story don't get it until the all-knowing Wexler explains it to them. Rendell continues to amaze with her ability to tie together seemingly unrelated plot lines and throw readers off. The tone is typically no-nonsense, with only a few token side trips into the personal lives of the protagonists. Rendell (and Wexford) fans will enjoy this latest offering, provided they can keep the impressively large cast of characters sorted out. Recommended for all public libraries. Caroline Mann, Univ. of Portland Lib., OR Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Inspector Reginald Wexford's 20th case, and Rendell's 64th volume, asks who murdered a pair of Kingsmarkham teens no better than they should have been. Last June, a hooded figure tried to kill 18-year-old mother Amber Marshalson by tossing a block of concrete onto her car from an overpass. The resulting accident led to a fatality, but it wasn't Amber. Now, two months later, the killer has struck more effectively. On the way home from the Bling-Bling Club, Amber's been beaten to death with a brick that could have come from anywhere. As Wexford, DS Hannah Goldsmith and their colleagues (The Babes in the Wood, 2003, etc.) methodically begin to interrogate witnesses and potential suspects-the neighbors of Amber's adoring father and hostile stepmother, the friends she went clubbing with, the well-connected family of her baby's father-Rendell sets about bringing each of them to startling life. She lavishes equal care on the members of Wexford's own family, led this time by his daughter Sylvia, who's quixotically determined to carry a baby for her ex-husband, Neil, and his girlfriend, Naomi. Soon enough, the murderer claims a new victim, pregnant shop clerk Megan Bartlow, whose connection with Amber isn't hard to find. But it'll be months before Wexford emerges from an intricate web of red herrings to identify a sadly amateurish scam and a surprising killer. Average for Rendell's distinguished list of whodunits, which makes it just a whisker below state of the art.
From the Publisher
"Rendell knows how to make your hair stand up straight on your head"
—Maeve Binchy

"Rendell’s eerie capacity to comprehend disturbed criminal minds continues to astonish"
The Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307277237
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/26/2007
  • Series: Chief Inspector Wexford Series, #20
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 516,608
  • Product dimensions: 5.15 (w) x 7.99 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Meet the Author

Ruth Rendell

Ruth Rendell has won many awards, including the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger for 1976’s best crime novel with A Demon in My View; a second Edgar in 1984 from the Mystery Writers of America for the best short story, The New Girl Friend; a Gold Dagger award for Live Flesh in 1986. She was also the winner of the 1990 Sunday Times Literary award, as well as the Crime Writers’ Association Cartier Diamond Dagger. In 1996 she was awarded the CBE and in 1997 became a Life Peer.


From the start of her illustrious career, Ruth Rendell's novels have blurred the distinction between literature and commercial fiction. Although Rendell is classified as a writer of mysteries and crime thrillers, her elegant prose and superb literary skills elevate her far above the conventions of those genres.

Born Ruth Barbara Grasemann in London in 1930, she attended the Loughton County High School for Girls in Essex, then went to work as a features writer for the Essex newspapers. In 1950, she married her boss at the newspaper, journalist Donald Rendell. (They divorced in 1975, remarried two years later, and remained together until his death in 1999.) For the next decade, she juggled marriage, motherhood, and part-time writing. She produced at least two unpublished novels before hitting pay dirt in 1964 with From Doon with Death, the first mystery to feature Chief Inspector Reginald 'Reg' Wexford of the Kingsmarkham Police Force. An immediate bestseller, the book launched Rendell's career and marked the beginning of one of the most successful and enduring series in detective fiction.

In 1965, Rendell published her second novel, a deft crime thriller (with no police presence) entitled To Fear a Painted Devil. For 20 years, she was content to alternate installments in the Wexford series with a steady stream of bestselling standalones that explored darker themes like envy, sexual obsession, and the tragic repercussions of miscommunication. Then, in 1986, she began a third strand of fiction under the name Barbara Vine. The very first of these books, A Dark-Adapted Eye, earned a prestigious Edgar Award.

From the get-go, the pseudonymous Vine novels had a separate DNA, although Rendell has always had difficulty pinpointing the distinction. In an interview with NPR, she tried to explain: "I don't think the Barbara Vines are mysteries in any sense. I must say that. They are different, and that is partly how I decide. The idea would come to me and I would know at once whether it was to be a Barbara Vine or a Ruth Rendell ... The Barbara Vine is much more slowly paced. It is a much more in-depth, searching sort of book; it doesn't necessarily have a murder in it. It's almost always set partly in the past, sometimes quite a long way in the past. And I think all these things come together and make them very different from the Ruth Rendells."

Under both names, Rendell has garnered numerous awards, including three American Edgars and multiple Gold and Silver Daggers from England's distinguished Crime Writers' Association. In 1996, she was made a Commander of the British Empire; and in 1997, a Life Peerage was conferred on her as Baroness Rendell of Babergh. Although, in her own words, she was "slightly stunned" by the peerage, she takes her responsibilities quite seriously, writing in the mornings and attending the House of Lords several afternoons a week.

Praise for Rendell is lavish and seemingly unqualified. John Mortimer once proclaimed that she would surely have won the Booker if she had not been pigeonholed as a "crime writer." Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison has identified Rendell as one of her favorite authors. And Joyce Carol Oates has called her "one of the finest practitioners of the craft in the English-speaking world."

Good To Know

While working as a journalist, Rendell once reported on a local club's annual dinner without actually attending. Her story omitted the crucial fact that the after-dinner speaker had dropped dead at the podium in the middle of his speech! She resigned before being fired.

The pseudonym Barbara Vine derives from the combination of Rendell's middle name and her great-grandmother's maiden name.

"I wouldn't keep my age a secret even if I had the chance," Rendell has said. "But I don't have the chance. Regularly, on February 17, the newspapers tell their readers my age."

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    1. Also Known As:
      Barbara Vine
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 17, 1930
    2. Place of Birth:
      London, England
    1. Education:
      Loughton County High School for Girls, Essex

Read an Excerpt

End in Tears

By Ruth Rendell

Random House

Ruth Rendell
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0307347141

Chapter One

Chapter 1

When he lifted it off the seat the backpack felt heavier than when he had first put it into the car. He lowered it on to the soft ferny ground. Then he got back into the driving seat to move the car deep into a cave made by hawthorn bushes and brambles, and the hop vines which climbed over everything in this wood. It was late June and the vegetation very dense and luxuriant.

Getting out again and standing back to take a good look, he could barely see the car. Probably he only saw it because he knew it was there. No one else would notice it. He squatted down, hoisted the backpack up on to his shoulders and slowly stood up to his full height. The movement reminded him of something and it was a moment before he realised what it was: lifting up his little son to sit on his shoulders. A hundred years ago, it seemed. The backpack was lighter than the boy but felt heavier to him.

He was afraid that if he stood upright the pack would jerk him backwards and break his spine. Of course it wouldn't. It just felt that way. All the same, he wouldn't stand upright, wouldn't even try it. Instead, he stooped, bending almost double. It wasn't far. He could walk like this the two hundred yards to the bridge. Anyone seeing him from a distance in this half-light would have thought him a humpbacked man.

There was no one to see. The twisty country lane wound round Yorstone Wood and over the bridge. He could have brought the car right up to the bridge but that way it would have been seen, so he had driven off the lane along a ride and then through a clearing to find the hop-grown cave. In the distance he thought he heard a car, then something heavier with a diesel engine. They would be on the road below, Brimhurst Lane that ran from Myfleet to Brimhurst Prideaux, passing under Yorstone Bridge ahead of him. It wasn't far now but it seemed like miles. If his legs gave way he wouldn't be able to get up again. Would it be easier to drag the backpack? What, then, if he met someone? Dragging something looks much more suspicious than carrying it. He pressed his shoulders back a little and, surprisingly, that was better. There was no one to meet. He could see the lane through the trees and the little stone bridge no one had reinforced with steel or replaced with a brightly painted wooden structure.

Its parapets were low, too low for safety, according to the local paper. The paper was always on about this bridge, and the dangers of the lane and the low parapets. He walked out on to the bridge, squatted down and let the backpack slip off his shoulders to the ground. He undid the flaps and then the zip. Inside, now revealed, was a lump of concrete, very roughly spherical, a bit bigger than a soccer ball. A pair of gloves was also inside the pack. To be on the safe side, he put them on. Though it would never come to anyone examining his hands, it would be stupid to scrape or bruise them.

What light remained was fading fast and with the coming of the dark it grew cooler. His watch told him that it was nine fifteen. Not long now. He lifted up the lump of concrete in his gloved hands, thought of balancing it on the parapet in readiness, then thought again. It wasn't beyond the bounds of possibility that someone would come along the path he had used and cross the bridge. Wait for the call, he thought. It won't be long now.

No traffic had passed along the road below since he had come on to the bridge but a car came now, going towards Brimhurst Prideaux, most probably all the way to Kingsmarkham. He closed his hand over the mobile in his pocket, worried because it hadn't rung. Then it rang.


'She's left. You want the number again?'

'I've got it. A silver Honda.'


'A silver Honda. Should be along in four minutes.'

He heard the line close. It was dark now. A car passed under the bridge, heading towards Brimhurst St Mary and Myfleet. The road dipped where the bridge passed over it and then twisted to the left, almost a right-angled bend. There were tall trees on the corner with thick ancient trunks and a black and white arrow sign opposite, pointing traffic to the left. A minute had passed.

He moved across to the other side of the bridge, dragging the backpack behind him, and there he bent down, heaved up the lump of concrete, his arms straining, and set it on the parapet. Just as well it wasn't far to lift it. Another minute gone. A white van with headlights on at full beam came from the Myfleet direction, a car following it, to pass, just behind him, a motorbike coming from Kingsmarkham. He was momentarily blinded by the headlights, held in them, which made him curse. No one should see him. The silver Honda with the number he had memorised would be along soon, very soon. The third minute passed. A fourth.

He hated anticlimaxes. The silver Honda could have taken another route. It was all very well to say it never did but you could never say that, not when it came to the way people behaved. He was facing the way it would come, towards Myfleet. It would pass under the bridge but before it reached the left-hand bend . . . He could see lights in the distance. The lights appeared and disappeared as a hedge or a tree trunk cut them from his view, and appeared again. Two sets of lights, not one car but two, both of them silver, quite close together. One was the Honda but he couldn't tell which, not from here, not in the dark, but he could read the number or the last three digits.

As soon as he had given a great push to the lump on the parapet and felt it drop, he knew he had aimed at the wrong car. The crash was huge, like a bomb. The first car, the one he had hit, ploughed into a tree trunk, its bonnet burst open, its windscreen gone, half its roof caved in. It seemed to have split and exploded. The car behind, undamaged until this point, crashed into its rear and its boot lid sprang open. That was the silver Honda which had been his quarry. As its driver got out of it, screaming, her hands up in the air, he knew he had failed.

He waited no longer but picked up the backpack and moved, looking back once to see the leading car burst into flames. In the brilliant light which illuminated everything he saw for the first time the woman he had tried to kill.

From the Hardcover edition.

Excerpted from End in Tears by Ruth Rendell Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Reading Group Guide

1. What do you make of the character of Inspector Wexford? What sets him apart from other literary detectives, and what aspects of his personality or approach to his job are reminiscent of characters you’ve encountered before?

2. Consider the relationships between couples that we see in this novel: Hannah and Bal, George and Diana Marshalson, John and Gwenda Brooks, Wexford and Dora, Naomi and Neil (and Sylvia). What common themes do you see in the way that Rendell portrays them? Who in this novel do you think has the healthiest relationship, and why?

3. At the opening of End in Tears, Wexford and Hannah are grating on each other’s nerves. Discuss this underlying conflict between them – his annoyance at her political correctness and her disapproval of his old-fashioned ways. How does this change throughout the course of the book? If so, how? Where else in the novel do we see this kind of generational divide?

4. Discuss the issue of class in modern-day England as it is portrayed in the novel. How do characters ascertain the status of the people around them? Which character is most aware of class differences? Which one is least aware of them? Does class play a role in the murders of Amber and Megan?

5. In explanation for the seemingly impossible belief of the women who paid for the “Miracle Tours” to Africa, Wexford states that:

I don’t think we, as men, will ever quite understand the longing some women, many women, have for a child. We hear talk about sex and self-preservation being the strongest of human instincts or urges. Maybe they are in men. In women, the strongest can be a passion for a child of their own. Those women Norman Arlen deceived wanted to believe, they psyched themselves up to believe against all reason because each one of them wanted a baby of her own more than anything in the world. Ten thousand pounds apiece? Twenty? A child of one’s own would be cheap at that price. Fly to Africa, undergo an anesthetic, do something with passports you know in your heart must be illegal – all that is nothing as the price for having your own precious baby.

What do you think of this? Can you understand how the longing for a child of her own could make a woman ignore her own better judgment and sign on for something like this, or is that suspension of disbelief too much for you? Can you think of any examples from current events or your own life where a person has gone this far in pursuit of something they desperately want?

6. What is your opinion of the relationship between Hannah and Bal? Do you think his attitude to their physical relationship is for the best in the long run, or do you think that he was being stupid about it? What, if anything, does each of them learn about themselves and each other in the process of sorting this out?

7. The issue of race is another that runs throughout the novel – what particular aspects of racial relations is Rendell commenting on? In what ways do you see race as a factor in the characters’ dealings with each other, and to what extent is it a nonissue? Which character is most preoccupied with race, and why?

8. What do you think of Sylvia’s choices? Why does she agree to carry the baby for Naomi and Neil? Did you think less of her when her true actions were revealed? What do you think the future repercussions will be for all involved – herself, Neil, Naomi, the baby, and her other children?

9. Discuss the author’s use of humor in End in Tears. Why do you think Rendell chooses to employ humor when and where she does? What effect does it have on the reading experience? Are there any places where a humorous comment or interlude led you to a deeper understanding of a character or plot point?

10. Did you catch on to the murderer(s) before Wexford solved the case? What clues did you as the reader have that the detectives were not privy to? Looking back, what signs did you catch or miss that would have pointed the way? Who did you suspect and why?

11. The plot of End in Tears unfolds against a background of extreme weather – from the sweltering heat of the week of Amber’s murder to the blinding snowstorm the night of Hannah’s near-death experience. Why do you think Rendell chooses to place the action of her novel in such extreme conditions – conditions that are for the most part unusual for the area in which the book takes place?

12. Consider the ways that parenthood is portrayed in the novel: Meg and Amber’s casual attitudes toward motherhood; the desperation of Naomi, Diana, and Gwenda; the fights born out of love and concern at the Wexfords; and the irritation and resentment between Cosima Hilland and her mother. We see a number of drastically different families and approaches to parenting. What conclusions did you draw about family relationships in the world of End in Tears? Who did you sympathize with and who did you dislike? In the end, does the traditional family structure hold up better or worse than the modern blended model that Hannah prefers to see? Does it make a difference?

13. Wexford quotes Bertrand Russell as having said:

The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it isn’t utterly absurd. Indeed, in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible.

In what ways do you see this sentiment reflected in End in Tears? Beyond the Miracle Tour scheme, where else do we see widely held opinions that are in reality “utterly absurd”? Do you agree with this quotation? What do you think compelled Wexford to learn it by heart years ago?

14. Discuss the novel’s title. What does “end in tears” refer to or signify?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 11 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2013



    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 14, 2009

    Not Up to Ruth Rendell's Usual Standards

    Ruth Rendell had a great idea for End in Tears, and it held my interest until the very end, where it completely fell apart. Inspector Wexford and her other characters were well-drawn, as usual, and interesting, but the "solution" was so unbelievable, contrived, and weak that it spoiled the book for me. It was very compelling up until that point, and I couldn't put it down. What a disappointment! I have read nearly all of Ruth Rendell's books, and this ending was not up to her usual high standards. I especially recommend Speaker of Mandarin, From Doon with Death, and Sins of the Fathers, all by Ruth Rendell.

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  • Posted March 25, 2009

    Ruth Rendell is the All-Time Greatest!

    It's incredibly difficult to choose just one Ruth Rendell novel as a favorite, because they are all so wonderful! End in Tears is flawlessly written, captivating and disturbing. I get so excited when Rendell (and her alter-ego Barbara Vine) puts out another book that I rush out to buy it, turn off the phone and settle in for the weekend. This novel definately delivers; when I turned the final page and read the last paragraph I just sat, stunned.
    If you like her style, I would also recommend: Acid Row, the Devil's Feather, and the Shape of Snake by Minette Walters. Also, you may like Morag Joss, Anita Shreve and Alexander McCall Smith. Under the name Barbara Vine, I loved The Brimstone Wedding, A Fatal Inversion, and A Dark-Adapted Eye.

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  • Posted March 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Another winner from Ruth Rendell - especially sensitive to us "old folks"

    This is a mystery with characters who are relevant and fascinating to all ages. Ruth Rendell manages to include us all in her tale and also shows a poignant understanding of the social challenges we all have to deal with. The mystery is challenging and the solution somewhat surprising - but shouldn't be...Strongly recommend!

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  • Posted February 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    another winner with wexford

    Everyone loves a British whodunit, especially when it comes from the redoubtable pen of Ruth Rendell. This is the 20th story with Inspector General Reg Wexford as the lead character, and time hasn't dimmed his appeal. He may not be a hero to his younger colleagues at the Kingsmarkham police station in Sussex but he is to millions of listeners/readers throughout the world. One reason for his popularity may be his accessability - it's a struggle for him to follow doctor's orders, a losing battle to make him exercise regularly, he has problems with his daughter, and he's not very good at avoiding temptation, although he does sit on his hands when in a pub to avoid the tempting bowl of cashew nuts. As in previous tales he is accompanied by friend and fellow officer Mike Burden. End In Tears focuses on the killing of two young women. At first the deaths seem unrelated. In the initial fatality a hunk of concrete was shoved off an overpass onto a car beneath. Months pass and then another murder - Amber Marshalson is cruelly, almost sadistically beaten to death late at night as she returns from a round of nightspots. Her killer was seen waiting for her, but not identified. Investigation reveals that Amber was driving her car directly behind the car that was crushed. Further, the two cars closely resembled each other. It is also learned that the two women had traveled to Germany together. Burden immediately assumes that drugs are somehow involved. Wexford thinks otherwise. It is now obvious that someone had gone to great lengths to make sure that Amber was dead. But, who and why? Broadway, television and cinema actor Daniel Gerroll has an impressive list of appearances to his credit, including the films Chariots of Fire, Big Business, and 84 Charing Cross Road. British by birth he has a deft way with accents. Gerroll has the voice for this Sussex based mystery. He delivers his tale with polish and just enough world-weariness for the often perplexed Wexford. - Gail Cooke

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2006

    Wonderfully complex whodunit.

    As usual with Rendell, she has presented exciting and well rounded characters. Unlike many authors, Rendell provides depth to not only her protagonist, Wexford, but to the other members of his investigative team, creating a very realistic atmosphere. The plot is complex with numerous twists and an unexpected red herring. The lack of use of current technology that most police have available is the only issue that kept the ranking to 4 stars. In all other respects, End in Tears is an exciting and beautifully constructed work.

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