- available from Amazon for Kindle
- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: Scribner (October 27, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1501119427
- ISBN-13: 978-1501119422
When his father dies, Carl Martin inherits a house in an increasingly rich and trendy London neighborhood. Carl needs cash, however, so he rents the upstairs room and kitchen to the first person he interviews, Dermot McKinnon. That was colossal mistake number one. Mistake number two was keeping his father’s bizarre collection of homeopathic “cures” that he found in the medicine cabinet, including a stash of controversial diet pills. Mistake number three was selling fifty of those diet pills to a friend, who is then found dead.
Dermot seizes a nefarious opportunity and begins to blackmail Carl, refusing to pay rent, and creepily invading Carl’s space. Ingeniously weaving together two storylines that finally merge in one shocking turn, Ruth Rendell describes one man’s spiral into darkness—and murder—as he falls victim to a diabolical foe he cannot escape.
Ruth Rendell died earlier this year at the age of 85. So this stand-alone is the very last of her books, and of course as a long time avid reader of her books (there have been 60 of them in the last 50 years) I had to read it.
While I wouldn't rate it in her best 10, it still demonstrates what a remarkable story teller she was, and how she was able to get into the mind of her principal characters.
There is no doubt here who the "murderer" is, even though Carl caused his friend's death unwittingly. But it preys constantly on his mind and he becomes unable to work, to eat, to sleep. And Rendell asks the reader whether we would react in the same way. Or would we get it over and done with, and front up to the police with an admission that we were the source of the tablets that in all probability killed Stacey. Carl chooses not to and thus becomes the victim of Dermot, his upstairs tenant, who blackmails him by refusing to pay any rent. With no income, and unable to work, Carl sinks lower and lower, to the point where his girlfriend leaves him, and Dermot preys on his mind.
The story just misses out on creating enough tension although there is a second murder, and also another attempted one.
There is a second story thread running alongside the first: Lizzie Milsom, a friend of the dead girl Stacey, who moves into her flat, wears her clothes, and finally gets kidnapped in a case of mistaken identity. When Lizzie's father Tom gets a free bus card when he turns 60, he takes up a new hobby: travelling on buses. After being beaten up at one bus stop, he then has a nasty experience when a passenger gets off a bus, leaving his rucksack behind.
So a good if not brilliant final outing for an author who has left an indelible mark on British crime fiction.
For those who do not know, Ruth Rendell was the creator of Inspector Wexford, and also wrote under the pseudonym of Barbara Vine.
My rating: 4.4
I've also read
FROM DOON WITH DEATH - Wexford #1
4.5, A NEW LEASE OF DEATH- Wexford #2
4.6, THE BEST MAN TO DIE - Wexford #4
4.3, A SLEEPING LIFE, Ruth Rendell - Wexford #10
4.7, PUT ON BY CUNNING - Wexford #11
4.6, THE VAULT- Wexford #23
4.5, NO MAN'S NIGHTINGALE- Wexford #24
4.7, THE MONSTER IN THE BOX
4.5, A SIGHT FOR SORE EYES
4.5, THE SAINT ZITA SOCIETY
4.6, THE MASTER OF THE MOOR
THE BIRTHDAY PRESENT
4.8, A DARK ADAPTED EYE