29 January 2012

Review: THE VAULT, Ruth Rendell

  • published by Hutchinson 2011
  • ISBN 978-0-0919-3710-2
  • 266 pages
  • Source: my local library
  • #23 in the Wexford series
Synopsis (Random House Australia)

‘Don’t forget,’ Wexford said, ‘I’ve lived in a world where the improbable happens all the time.’

However, the impossible has happened. Chief Inspector Reg Wexford has retired. He and his wife, Dora, now divide their time between Kingsmarkham and a coachhouse in Hampstead, belonging to their actress daughter, Sheila.
Wexford takes great pleasure in his books, but, for all the benefits of a more relaxed lifestyle, he misses being the law.

But a chance meeting in a London street, with someone he had known briefly as a very young police constable, changes everything. Tom Ede is now a Detective Superintendent, and is very keen to recruit Wexford as an adviser on a difficult case.The bodies of two women and a man have been discovered in the old coal hole of an attractive house in St John’s Wood. None carries identification. But the man’s jacket pockets contain a string of pearls, a diamond and a sapphire necklace as well as other jewellery valued in the region of £40,000.It is not a hard decision for Wexford. He is intrigued and excited by the challenge, and, in the early stages, not really anticipating that this new investigative role will bring him into physical danger.

My take

When Wexford decides to take up Detective Superintendent Tom Ede's offer of being an unpaid serious crimes adviser to him at Cricklewood he really doesn't understand what that will mean. What he does think is that this will put some meaning back into his life. He is not yet ready for the scrapheap of retirement and there is only so much reading and walking that he can do.

What he doesn't immediately see is that he is in essence powerless. He is no longer a policeman and really can't do anything like interview people without permission and without a police officer with him. What Tom Ede seems to need is another pair of eyes, and someone else to take on a little bit of the hack work, and to come up with some ideas of new directions to take. So in many senses Reg is not working with Tom, and add to that the fact that Tom's attention is divided by other cases under his supervision, and he doesn't seem to have the sense of urgency that Wexford expects.

And then family life, problems for their daughter Sylvia, intervene into the Wexfords' retirement and life becomes a bit complicated. This sub-plot adds substance to the book and puts the main plot in perspective.

For a while there, I thought Reg would never get it all sorted out, but in the long run serendipity, itself the result of Reg Wexford's urge to tie up loose ends, reveals the eventual answer.

From what I have read, THE VAULT appears to be an extension of the plot of a stand alone A SIGHT FOR SORE EYES which Rendell published in 1998. I don't remember reading that book, although I probably did a decade or so ago. But I'm going to correct that soon, because I'm intrigued. It doesn't mean however that you can't read THE VAULT independently.

Having retired myself less than a year ago, I was interested to see how Reg felt about it. I felt throughout the novel that Rendell is trying out a new role for Reg. I'm not sure that unpaid adviser to the police force is really for him.

Not Rendell's best book, but fans will enjoy it.

My rating: 4.6

Other reviews to check
Other Ruth Rendell titles reviewed on MiP

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kerrie - Thanks for the fine review. Retirement is an interesting new role for Wexford isn't it? I wonder where Rendell will take this series next if she chooses to write another...


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