6 April 2010
Review: COLLECTED STORIES, Ruth Rendell
Hutchinson, Random House Australia
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 acclaimed Wexford series.
This kind of book doesn't have to be read in one sitting. In fact the stories probably work best if the reader treats it as a book to dip into, or to read on the bus to and from work. What they will do is whet the reader's appetite for more.
And there is no lack of further collections to look for: Rendell has published no less than fifteen collections of short stories, twenty books in the Inspector Wexford series, twenty eight stand alone novels, eight omnibuses, and contributed to another twelve anthologies. She has written another fifteen novels under the pen-name of Barbara Vine. Ruth Rendell, now Baroness Rendell of Babergh CBE, is without doubt Britain's "Queen of Crime". She has been the recipient of three Edgars, four Gold Daggers, and is a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master.
April 2007 review originally published on Murder and Mayhem