Tuesday, 18 December 2018

2 BY RUTH RENDELL

A couple this week from British crime writing queen, Ruth Rendell.

She's not an author I've read too much from - one book fairly recently - King Solomon's Carpet in 2017, one other long since forgotten when I was a teenager.






















I think I'm more drawn to her standalone fiction (30 novels) than her 25-book long series (give or take) with Chief Inspector Wexford. I've a few of them on the TBR pile.

In addition to her prolific output as Rendell, she published over dozen novels under the pen name Barbara Vine.

She died in 2015




A Sight For Sore Eyes (1998)

In traditional fairy tales the handsome prince rescues the beautiful princess from her wicked stepmother, and they live happily ever after.

But in Ruth Rendell's dark and damaged contemporary universe, innocent dreams can turn into the most terrible nightmares.

Teddy Brex emerges from a loveless, isolated childhood as a handsome but autistic young man. Francine Hill, traumatised by the murder of her mother, grows into a beautiful young woman, who must endure the over-protectiveness of an increasingly obsessive stepmother.

Teddy Brex does ride to her rescue, but he is a man who has already murdered... twice.

"A tale as chilling as any Rendell has written to date" Marcel Berlins, The Times

Portobello (2008)

The Portobello area of West London has a rich personality - vibrant, brilliant in colour, noisy, with graffiti that approach art, bizarre and splendid. An indefinable edge to it adds a spice of danger. There is nothing safe about Portobello...

Eugene Wren inherited an art gallery from his father near an arcade that now sells cashmere, handmade soaps and children's clothes. But he decided to move to a more upmarket site in Kensington Church Street. Eugene was fifty, with prematurely white hair. He was, perhaps, too secretive for his own good. He also had an addictive personality. But he had cut back radically on his alcohol consumption and had given up cigarettes. Which was just as well, considering he was going out with a doctor. For all his good intentions, though, there was something he didn't want her to know about...

On a shopping trip one day, Eugene, quite by chance, came across an envelope containing money. He picked it up. For some reason, rather than report the matter to the police, he wrote a note and stuck it up on lamppost near his house:

'Found in Chepstow Villas, a sum of money between eighty and a hundred and sixty pounds. Anyone who has lost such a sum should apply to the phone number below.'

This note would link the lives of a number of very different people - each with their obsessions, problems, dreams and despairs. And through it all the hectic life of Portobello would bustle on.

19 comments:

  1. Col, I have never read her books though a couple of them in my collection have been nudging me to do so.

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    1. Prashant, I'm guilty of not reading enough of them. Maybe 2019 I can get to one of these two.

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  2. I like Rendell's work very much, Col. And it's interesting that you're more drawn to her standalones. Most people do prefer either those or her Wexford series. If you like these, and decide to try another, may I recommend A Judgement in Stone? I think it's very good indeed.

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    1. Margot, thanks for the recommendation. That one sits on the pile as well. I was maybe thinking I might try one Wexford just to see, but Lord knows when!

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  3. I've read quite a few of Rendell's books, but neither of these. A Sight for Sore Eyes in particular sounds as if I should pick it up . . . once I've finished the three or four Rendells/Vines I still have unread on the shelf!

    Like many, I prefer the standalones to the Wexfords. Early on, I also preferred the Vines to the Rendells, although the distinction seemed to become a bit hazier as she wrote more of both.

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    1. I did wonder if she had a different voice for the Vines, compared to the Rendells, but considered whether it was just a case of her publisher not wanting more than a book a year under one name.

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    2. Ha! On checking the shelves last night I discovered A Sight for Sore Eyes is one of the unread Rendells there. So I'be bumped it up the queue a bit . . .

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    3. I may be misremembering, but I think that at least initially the Vines came from a different UK publisher than the Rendells.

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    4. Result! Boom, I expect to be reading your thoughts on it by close of play Boxing day!

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    5. I doubt it! I'm reading these Margaret Millars, you'll recall, and then yesterday, when I popped into the library, I accidentally spotted the new Keigo Higashino . . .

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    6. Ok, I'll cut you some slack then. Me feeling festive!

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    7. Ha just spotted you different publisher comment. Sorry I missed it. Hmm, I don't know whether to have a root around and see if that's the case or whether to crack on with some reading! It probably doesn't matter too much now anyway, so reading wins.

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  4. Col – I’ve never read anything by Rendell. I don’t know why – just never got around to her.

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    1. Elgin, well worth trying if you ever get the time. She's a favourite author for a lot of readers.

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  5. I have read a lot of Ruth Rendells, though by no means all of them, but at some point gave up on them, and have not read these two. But I must say Portobello sounds good.

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    1. Knowing you, you will probably get to Portobello long before I ever do!

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  6. I have read A Sight for Sore Eyes, which has a tie in to one of the Inspector Wexford books. When I read Rendell's non-Inspector Wexford books, they make me feel tense the whole time I am reading them... so not my favorites. But her writing is very very good.

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    1. I think the thought of embarking on another long series when I can't manage the ones under my nose already put me off Wexford and pointed me at her standalones. She does make you feel tense - he says after one Barbara Vine book!

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