Sunday, 16 September 2012

R is for Ruth Rendell

Ruth Rendell is one of my favourite writers. If Agatha Christie is the Queen of Plots, Ruth Rendell is the Queen of characterisation for me. I am fascinated by her characters. Ruth Rendell books deal with real crimes in the real society. She has constantly dealt with the issues of racism, immigration, mental illness, domestic violence, obsessions, the problem of isolation and loneliness in modern society. I love reading Rendell because of her writing style, her characters, plot, her observations about society, and most of all she never fails to surprise me. There is always the twist in the end. Ruth Rendell along with P D James is credited with creating whydunit.

Rendell writes police procedurals featuring Inspector Reginald Wexford and his assistant Mike Burden. I like the contrast between Wexford and Burden. While Wexford is older, open minded, and liberal in his views, Burden is younger, closed and conservative in his views. You can easily shock Burden. Wexford is sensitive and ponders a lot about everything. Somehow, I like Burden more than Wexford. Inspector Wexford series mostly takes place in fictional town of Kingsmarkham. More recently I find Hannah Goldsmith interesting. Atheist feminist anti-racist Hannah Goldsmith has a difficult time trying to balance between her different -isms. She should be irritating, annoying trying to be politically correct, balancing her different ideologies, but it is interesting to see her deal with her issues.

Ruth Rendell also writes standalone thrillers. In many Ruth Rendell standalone there are just one or two main characters. She sets the scene, introduces her characters and we know what is going to happen is inevitable but not predictable. I like her London based books. I wonder if Ruth Rendell lived near Hampstead. So many of her books feature the protoganist taking a walk in Hampstead. Ruth Rendell also writes more darker psychological thrillers under the pen-name Barbara Vine.

I like the title of her books- A Sight for sore eyes, An Unkindness of Ravens, A Guilty thing surprised, Some lie and Some die, No more dying then, Harm Done, A new lease of death- to name a few.

I read four Rendell/Vine books this year.

The Vault by Ruth Rendell Retired Inspector Wexford

The Monster in the Box by Ruth Rendell Inspector Wexford

The Saint Zita Society by Ruth Rendell standalone

Asta's Book by Barbara Vine

Here is the complete list of books from Wikipedia should I say I read most of them.

To Fear a Painted Devil (1965)
Vanity Dies Hard (1965)
The Secret House of Death (1968)
One Across, Two Down (1971)
The Face of Trespass (1974)
A Demon in My View (1976)
A Judgement in Stone (1977)
Make Death Love Me (1979)
The Lake of Darkness (1980)
Master of the Moor (1982)
The Killing Doll (1984)
The Tree of Hands (1984)
Live Flesh (1986)
Talking to Strange Men (1987)
The Bridesmaid (1989)
Going Wrong (1990)
The Crocodile Bird (1993)
The Keys to the Street (1996)
A Sight for Sore Eyes (1998)
Adam and Eve and Pinch Me (2001)
The Rottweiler (2003)
Thirteen Steps Down (2004)
The Water's Lovely (2006)
Portobello (2008)
Tigerlily's Orchids (2010)
The St Zita Society (2012)

Inspector Wexford series
From Doon with Death (1964)
A New Lease of Death (1967)
Wolf to the Slaughter (1967)
The Best Man to Die (1969)
A Guilty Thing Surprised (1970)
No More Dying Then (1971)
Murder Being Once Done (1972)
Some Lie and Some Die (1973)
Shake Hands Forever (1975)
A Sleeping Life (1979)
Put on by Cunning (1981)
The Speaker of Mandarin (1983)
An Unkindness of Ravens (1985)
The Veiled One (1988)
Kissing the Gunner's Daughter (1991)
Simisola (1994)
Road Rage (1997)
Harm Done (1999)
The Babes in the Wood (2002)
End in Tears (2005)
Not in the Flesh (2007)
The Monster in the Box (2009)
The Vault (2011)

Written as Barbara Vine
A Dark-Adapted Eye (1986)
A Fatal Inversion (1987)
The House of Stairs (1988)
Gallowglass (1990)
King Solomon's Carpet (1991)
Asta's Book (1993)
No Night Is Too Long (1994)
The Brimstone Wedding (1995)
The Chimney-sweeper's Boy (1998)
Grasshopper (2000)
The Blood Doctor (2002)
The Minotaur (2005)
The Birthday Present (2008)
The Child's Child (2012)

My post for Crime Fiction Alphabet R.


(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

This is one author I've been meaning to read. You gave me a lot of good ideas for titles. Thanks so much

neer said...

I have read a few books by her and find her good though not quite in the league of some other writers whom I admire. And I positively hated her in Going Wrong because I felt she was too sadistic in her treatment of one character. In fact, wanted to rave and rant against the universe after reading that one.:)

srivalli said...

Thanks Diane and Neer for stopping by. @Neer if i am not wrong Going Wrong is about a middle-class girl and a drug dealer. I like the master stroke she plays in the end. Life is sadistic and it is not what it seems, i suppose that was the message Rendell is trying to send. I like her description of London in this book and also it deals with what is the middle-class beautiful girl doing with the so-called low-life. Why is he obseessed with her? Why can't he let her go? We are asking the wrong questions, aren't we? Rave and Rant is a good thing isn't it ;)

Peggy Ann said...

I love Ruth Rendell too and her writing as Barbara Vine! There was a tv series of her books done in the UK in the '80's, The Ruth Rendell Mysteries. It's available on netflix

Scott said...

Ah an author that I have heard of before, as well as few others.

Anonymous said...

Oh, you've selected such a talented author!! I think my favourite of her books is A Judgement in Stone, although I do like her Wexford series too. Such a powerful influence in the genre too!

TracyK said...

I like to see real enthusiasm for an author, as you show for Rendell. I have read all of the Wexford mysteries up to The Monster in the Box, and will be reading that one and the Vault soon. I find the standalones to be too intense for me, but I am going to dip back into those again, when I have time. Thanks for this overview.

Anonymous said...

Rendell really is a bit of a phenomen, often combining very clever plots with deep and troubling characterisation. Seems amazing that the same person can write a really clever story like the one in the Wexford SHAKE HANDS FOREVER and the ironic and macabre masterpiece that is the Vine story A DARK-ADAPTED EYE. Great choice Valli.

Unknown said...

As a Christie fan, I have to check out to Rendell now. Thanks for the review.