Ruth Rendell is best known for her Chief Inspector Wexford series. However, this gem is less of a mystery and more of a suspenseful character study. Portobello refers to the famous North London road that fills with shoppers and markets on the weekend. Off of Portobello Road are rich residences and poor residences.
We meet Lance, a petty thief, who has just been released from prison and is estranged from his longtime love who has left him. He is forced to live with his religious Uncle when the rest of his family won't take him in. Lance thinks that if he could just make some money, his girlfriend will take him back.
Eugene is the owner of an art gallery and is engaged to Ella. However, Eugene has some interesting addiction problems that he feels he must hide from Ella, a doctor. While attending patients at the hospital, Ella meets Joel. Joel who is estranged from his family lives in darkness. He keeps his sunglasses on day and night and keeps lights off in his flat. Ella would really like to help Joel. This attention is new to Joel and he attaches himself to her in some frightening ways.
All of the characters will influence each other either directly or indirectly. Finding out what is really happening in their lives and what will happen to them when others discover their secrets is the journey of this book.