From Doon With Death: A Wexford Case - 50th Anniversary Edition (Wexford, 1)
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It seemed grimmer and more adult than the Christies and Chestertons I was used to, and the twist surprised me.
Chilling, richly characterized, and ingeniously constructed, this is psychological suspense at its very finest. However, I am very pleased to say that at the 50% mark this changed and I became nicely engaged in the story. From Doon with Death (the origin of the 'Doon' nickname is never explained in the book as far as I noticed) was quite a clever mystery with a radical (for its time) twist in its reveal ending. This is a reread for me in preparation for our first Ruth Rendell buddy read in the English Mysteries book club starting May 1. Although it lacks the polish of later volumes in the series, and Wexford especially hasn't yet assumed final form, it is a very capable first outing.It then says that a read-through of Rendell’s oeuvre is like reading a social history of England from 1964 to the present.
Also, there is no Hastings or Watson to romanticize the proceedings, and given how much I hate both characters, I'm adding a star just for that. Being one who always gives everything more then one try, I imagine I'll read another of Rendell's books but will not be in a hurry to do so. Means of Evil → When Wexford and Burden attend wholefood fanatic Axel Kingman's wedding, they never suspect that they will shortly be investigating the new bride's death. He is not flashy and has no particular character tics, at least in this novel, that would distinguish him from detectives in scores of other procedurals yet I appreciated his matter of fact attitude toward the case.Update, May 6, 2015: I am undertaking a Ruth Rendell "key" works project -- the books The Guardian recently noted as such the day of Ruth Rendell's death. That is an unnecessarily complicated way of saying that I'll try a couple more books by Rendell to see if they become "must reads. I was about 2/3 through, thinking it was well written, interesting, but not yet sensing it was truly special.
The psychological profile of the various characters emerges through the interviews and descriptions of present and past facts, but without anyone standing out above the others, at least until the last chapters, where the truth is revealed with a final twist. I must confess that as I reached the 40% marker or so, I was worried that this might get a bit dull and disuade me from the series. The humanity of Wexford shows not only his impatience when his time is wasted but also his compassion while still following the letter of the law. Let’s face it, the clues in this case are fairly slight so it was a pleasant surprise that she manages to lay a convincing trail to the killer with such a weak starting point. Wexford doesn't really make a strong impression as a leading character (in fact quite a good amount of the investigating falls to his partner, the aptly named Inspector Burden), but he shows much potential, intellectual and emotional astuteness and solid detecting skills.Whether the reader is surprised by where the novel goes, I think the appeal of the book is in the very competent execution of those ideas. Read them and tell me they don’t add affects that would be hard to narrate without sounding like propaganda. Overall, I'm feeling three stars for this and am looking forward to reading the next one and hopefully many more after that.
It's been almost twenty years since I read it, and there has always been a niggling in the back of my mind to get back to her eventually. Rendell says she modeled Wexford after her father and I realized that maybe that is why this series appeals to me so much. The time and place and characters are generally well drawn, and the plot engaging (even though the outcome was obvious to me fairly early on). Unusually, Rendell does not make any of the characters particularly sympathetic and that adds to the reality of the crime and suspects.One of my favourite books is A Sight for Sore Eyes, a standalone by Ruth Rendell, a mystery where she masterfully took a few storylines that ultimately converged. The way the book is structured, it will all build to a moment in which that identity is revealed and if the reader feels surprised it will likely result in a rush of excitement and general good feeling. The home life is completely absent and the character is not given to quoting Shakespeare or other classics.