April 03, 2003

Murder Being Once Done, by Ruth Rendell

This is the first book by Rendell I have read. I've seen her name on author's lists, usually coupled with P.D. James as great-British-women-detective-novel-writers. When you see a list of adjectives that long, certain, often unmet, expectations are created. And then, this is a novel right smack dab in the middle of a series, which isn't the best place to start if the series is a continuing one and knowledge of the previous installments are necessary for the understanding those following.

None of that seems to matter, though. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Inspector Wexford has had some sort of bleeding in his eye leading his doctor to prescribe rest, healthy food and no work as a cure. I gather he prefers to work hard, drink a bit and eat badly. The novel opens with him and his wife in London staying with his nephew, a detective for Scotland Yard. He is being coddled, pampered and generally bored out of his wits by his wife and niece while his nephew, lucky man, gets to go off to work everyday. On one of his prescribed and hated daily walks, he passes a cemetery where a murder investigation is taking place, decides to just pop in for a quick look and stumbles on his nephew heading up the investigation. His aid is enlisted, surreptitiously lest the women find out, and he begins to nose around. A very young woman has been strangled and left in a crypt. Investigators find her identity but have no luck tracing the girl using the name she is known by and no one steps forward to claim her as missing or lost. And sometime in the last year she has had a full term pregnancy. Hmmmmm....

As a detective novel, it was pretty good. I had the wrong person pegged as the killer most of the way thru the book. Actually there were about 4 candidates I came up with in the course of reading the book, none of which actually were the killer. And while Rendell deliberately was messing around with my mind and setting up false trails, she was also equally giving the same sort of clues for the correct candidate. Interesting. I want to hunt up more of her work to see if she does the same thing in other novels. I would also like to see Inspector Wexford in his home setting in rural England, working too hard, drinking a bit and eating badly.

I love it when I find a new author to follow. It's been lonely without Peter Diamond books.

Posted by Deb English at April 3, 2003 08:00 PM