There’s quite a list of authors that I should have read more of – but probably right at the top of that list is Ruth Rendell. And for no better reason than the fact that I found it on my shelf when I was looking for a quick read, it’s time to correct that failing with the first book written by her featuring Chief Inspector Wexford.
Margaret Parsons was an unexceptional woman. Unexciting and old-fashioned, the sort of woman that you barely noticed. Well, apart from the person who murdered her in the woods, that is. As Wexford and his sidekick Sergeant Burden investigate, they discover that Margaret went to school in the area and was involved with someone who went by the name of “Doon”. Someone who, it seems, has come back into her life…
A very quick read, this one – shorter than some of Dame Agatha’s work, so I’m loathe to talk much about the plot at all. The characters are well drawn, if mostly drawn from the somewhat unpleasant upper classes (in order to contrast with the victim) and most of the book is from Burden’s point of view. If anyone gets the short straw at characterisation, it’s probably Wexford himself, who comes across as a bit of a grumpy stereotype.
As for the plot, it’s pretty straightforward. On the one hand, at the time this was written, 1964, I can imagine that readers would have been much more surprised and caught out by the solution, but in this day and age, the surprise is much less shocking. In fact, I found it very guessable. But credit where credit’s due, it was Rendell’s first book and as I said, it was written in 1964, not this year.
Hopefully in the later books, Wexford gets a bit more personality, but this is a promising start. Not a series I’m going to race back to, but I’m sure I’ll get back to it sooner or later.