14 May 2009

Forgotten Book: FROM DOON WITH DEATH, Ruth Rendell

This week's contribution to Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books.

Last week Ruth Rendell revealed that the final Inspector Wexford novel (probably) will be published later this year. It will be the 22nd in the series that began 45 years ago with the publication of FROM DOON WITH DEATH (1964).

So I thought my Forgotten Book post this week would pay tribute to this great author, without doubt one of my favourites, and this great series. This was her first published novel.

Blurb from Amazon
There is nothing extraordinary about Margaret Parsons, a timid housewife in the quiet town of Kingsmarkham, a woman devoted to her garden, her kitchen, her husband. Except that Margaret Parsons is dead, brutally strangled, her body abandoned in the nearby woods.

Who would kill someone with nothing to hide? Inspector Wexford, the formidable chief of police, feels baffled -- until he discovers Margaret's dark secret: a trove of rare books, each volume breathlessly inscribed by a passionate lover identified only as Doon. As Wexford delves deeper into both Mrs. Parsons

FROM DOON WITH DEATH introduced Chief Inspector Reg Wexford, his offsider Inspector Mike Burden, and the town of Kingsmarkham. Reg in particular didn't seem all that young in the first novel, and he certainly hasn't aged 45 years since then.
But what Rendell essentially did was introduce an enduring set of characters that included Reg's forceful wife Dora and their daughters Sylvia and Sheila. And suddenly we travelled along life's journey with the Wexford family, and crime fiction took on new dimensions.

This interest in the sleuth's family was something that Simenon did very well, with the rather enigmatic Madame Maigret, but Rendell has done it oh so well.

For me reading a new Wexford novel is always like visiting with old friends, and I for one will be sad that the series is coming to an end.

For the last 20 years, since 1988, George Baker has played Reg Wexford in various TV adaptations, and at 78, only just a year younger than Rendell herself, there is really little likelihood he will make any more.

A little known fact is that George himself wrote the screen adaptation for FROM DOON WITH DEATH.

If you'd like to follow some of my other posts about Ruth Rendell, click on this link.

The Wexford series, courtesy Fantastic Fiction

1. From Doon with Death (1964)
2. Sins of the Fathers (1967)
aka A New Lease of Death
3. Wolf to the Slaughter (1967)
4. The Best Man to Die (1969)
5. A Guilty Thing Surprised (1970)
6. No More Dying Then (1971)
7. Murder Being Once Done (1972)
8. Some Lie and Some Die (1973)
9. Shake Hands Forever (1975)
10. A Sleeping Life (1978)
11. Put On By Cunning (1981)
aka Death Notes
12. The Speaker of Mandarin (1983)
13. An Unkindness of Ravens (1985)
14. The Veiled One (1988)
15. Kissing the Gunners Daughter (1992)
16. Simisola (1994)
17. Road Rage (1997)
18. Harm Done (1998)
19. The Babes in the Wood (2002)
20. End in Tears (2005)
21. Not in the Flesh (2007)
22. The Monster in the Box (2009)
Means of Evil: And Other Stories (1979)
Put on by Cunning / Unkindness of Ravens (omnibus) (2007)


Dorte H said...

Good to hear from you again :)

And I like your tribute to Ruth Rendell & Reg Wexford. I really haven´t time to write any of my Wexford-posts right now, but I plan to return to them later this summer.

Kerrie said...

Ruth Rendell really is one of my favourite authors Dorte.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes, she integrated his family and work life so well.

Kerrie said...

I think she does this really well Patti and it helps in getting us inside the sleuth's head doesn't it? It became OK to include the personal lives of detectives - something that really didn't happen with Agatha Christie anywya, although Dorothy L. Sayers and Ngaio Marsh also began doing it.

Lourdes said...

Thanks for posting this. I didn't know she was bringing the Wexford novels to an end. I've been (slowly) reading her series.

Kerrie said...

I guess all things come to an end Lourdes. I wonder if he will retire? I hope he doesn't die ala Morse


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