5 March 2008

Favourite Authors - #5 Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine

The idea of this mini-project is to list crime fiction authors that I look forward to reading. These are authors that I will buy without question if I see a title I haven't yet read. So in a sense to give them a number is deceptive. I would imagine that there are at least 20 authors in my database who come into this category. It also gives me a chance to print some of my mini-reviews that haven't been published before. This is a project that I will continue randomly throughout 2008.

Previously listed
One of the advantages with Ruth Rendell is that she writes under 2 names, and writes the Wexford series, and stand-alones.
Every respectable library will have lots of titles.
I've listed the records in my database in publication order.
If you want a full list of her remarkable output see Fantastic Fiction:
Ruth Rendell
Barbara Vine
Output has slowed down in recent years, but there are omnibus re-printings to look for.
Ruth Rendell is 78 this year (2008)
My enjoyment is indicated by my ratings, a value with a maximum of 5.0

Ruth Rendell titles

Contains 11 stories: The Fever Tree, The Dreadful Day Of Judgement, A Glowing Future, An Outside Interest, A Case Of Coincidence, Thornapple' (novella), May And June, A Needle For The Devil, Front Seat, Paintbox Place and The Wrong Category.

END IN TEARS (2005), 4.8
In the early hours of the morning George Marshalson is waiting anxiously for his young daughter to come home. His discovery of her body at dawn not far from the house is the beginning of a new case for Reg Wexford and the Kingsmarkham CID team. Neither Reg nor his assistant Mike Burden are getting any younger and both are a bit old-fashioned in their attitudes and their policing methods. In this, the 20th book in the Wexford series that began in 1964, award winning author Ruth Rendell introduces the new face of policing in Britain in the persons of the latest additions to the team, Bal and Hannah. And again Rendell gives this book a contemporary setting by weaving into it a theme that has been of world-wide community concern. The Wexford family interest continues too when daughter Sylvia becomes pregnant by her ex-husband.

THE WATER'S LOVELY (2006), 4.7
Ruth Rendell never disappoints me. Sisters Ismay and Heather Sealand live in the bottom half of a house in suburban London and their mother and aunt live in the upper floor. Nine years before their stepfather Guy was drowned in the bath upstairs and Ismay and her mother have always thought Heather was responsible, although they hid their suspicions from the police, and gave Heather, 11 at the time, an alibi. After the verdict of accidental drowning, the matter was never discussed again but Ismay has always thought of Heather as a murderer. She thinks Heather drowned Guy in order to protect her. Ismay wonders whether she should warn Heather's new friend Edmund about Heather's possessiveness.

NOT IN THE FLESH (2007), 4.8
Honey the dog is a wonderful hunter for truffles. But this time she unearths something even less savoury - a human hand. Another case for the inveterate duo Reg Wexford and Mike Burden. The body is male, and has been there for over 10 years, wrapped in a purple bed sheet. In this story Reg Wexford seems to be a little less clearly drawn and we learn more about the dynamics of the team he works with. The plot is a spider web of threads. It is all about degrees of separation, those threads that draw us together. And running through all the murder mysteries, missing persons and threads of deception, something else Rendell has on her mind - female circumcision, ritual genital mutilation of young immigrant children, providing a rich undercurrent, showing Rendell as aware of the issues of her times as ever.

Ruth Rendell's COLLECTED STORIES is an omnibus of three previously published collections: The Fallen Curtain and Other Stories (1976), Means of Evil and Other Stories (1979), and The Fever Tree and Other Stories (1982). Some of the stories have appeared individually and in other collections, all over twenty-five years ago. Many of them were first published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. Few authors specialise in the short story today, and each of these twenty-seven stories convinces the reader what a consummate writer of this genre Rendell is. She explores a range of topics: the boy abducted by a Man, the false evidence that convicts a man of murder, a boy's distillation of a vegetable poison, death by knitting needle, the serial killer charged with a murder he didn't commit, the killer-for-hire foiled by his love of dogs, the woman who tried suicide once too often, and more. Most of the stories stand alone, but the five in Means of Evil and Other Stories all feature Reg Wexford and Mike Burden, Rendell's central characters from the much loved Wexford series.

Writing as Barbara Vine

NO NIGHT IS TOO LONG (1994), 4.0
Tim Cornish thought he'd gotten away with murder. For months after he'd killed his lover off the Alaskan coast, there hadn't been a word about the murder. But then the letters started to arrive, giving intimate details of the murder. It seems that someone knows what Tim has done.

THE MINOTAUR (2005), 5.0
An excellent read. Always has you on the edge of your seat with hints about what is to come. It is the 1960s, but the “swinging sixties” revolution hasn't quite reached rural England. In an attempt to be closer to her English boyfriend, Kerstin Kvist accepts a job with the Cosway matriarch; her three unmarried daughters; and her son, John, a sad, self-absorbed figure in his thirties who haunts the grand house of Lydstep Old Hall, deep in the Essex countryside. There is a fourth daughter, too—a widow herself and apparently quite rich—who comes and goes infrequently, with ill-disguised contempt for the others. Then, just as Kerstin is beginning to figure out the odd family, a stranger moves into the village, his very presence setting the Cosways on a path to self-destruction.


Sarah said...

I like this idea Kerrie. My favourite (will read - indeed buy! - every new book as soon as it is out) is probably Reginald Hill, in crime. Will have a think about some others (Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall Smith, P D James come to mind).


Kerrie said...

Thanks for the comment Sarah.
I have noticed that I haven't got any Australian writers there yet, but they will emerge soon. There are some that I am beginning to look for.

Martin Edwards said...

Rendell has written so many great books, it's hard to pick out the best, but my own favourites are A Judgement in Stone, The Face of Trespass, The Lake of Darkness and (Barbara Vine) A Fatal Inversion. All are superb.


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