==About the book:==
The body of a middle age women is discovered under a hedge by a young boy. And despite having no identification on her Chief Inspector Wexford soon discovers that Miss Rhoda Comfrey was stabbed to death. He is surprised to find her purse still intact with money left in it but no real clues about the ladies life or why anyone should want to kill her.
As he begins to investigate Wexford discovers the dead lady had just visited her father in hospital and although not living locally she was known in the Sussex town of Kingsmarkham as she visited his home a couple of times a year and grew up there. He is advised by several locals that Rhoda lived in London but not even her Aunt is able to provide a precise address for her. And Wexford's task is made no easier when her father soon after passes away in hospital. The Hospital only have Rhoda's home address as her Father's address where she has not lived for well over 20 years and also where there are no details about her just a few clothes left in the spare room of the house.
==My thoughts of this story:==
I would be surprised if many people do not know or have heard of Ruth Rendell as she is a very successful crime writer. She is a very well respected writer, having written over 50 books of which the most popular ones have been the Chief Inspector Wexford series that so far account for 22 stories. The story I am about to review was the 10th in this series and written in 1978.
For more years than I care to remember I have avoided reading books by Ruth Rendell as I considered then to be books for an older generation, as I remember as a kid my Grandmother reading them. However recently I have sort new challenges in my reading and as I love crime fiction I thought it was way time I at least gave this highly successful writer a go, rather than simply judging her by my own prejudices.
I selected this novel on two very simple features. The first being the the title ' A Sleeping Life' and then below it is said 'Death is always solitary. For some, so is life...' This sounded very interesting to me and I was fascinated to know what the author meant by it. The second was the short by well written summary of story on the back cover of the book. This advised the reader of the murder of this middle aged woman that seemed motiveless and a women who would be very hard to trace and learn more about her life. And as I really like mysteries that are slightly different this sounded ideal for me.
Although I did find the two pages of compliments about the authors work in general unnecessary. Yes it was good to know how well she is respected by her fellow writers but her success and their opinion of her general style of work has little relevance for this book. As I am all to aware that many very successful writers write poor books too. I would have preferred less compliments and ones about the story I was about to read, that would have had more significance to me.
That said as soon as I started reading the story itself I found myself drawn into the story. The concepts that appealed was the motiveless of Rhoda 's murder and the problems Wexford would have tracing her. I expected very quickly for the Police to be able to find out all about her and her life but they really struggled and this really appealed and because of the intelligent writing I could feel the detectives frustration.
I was impressed by despite being unable to find this women's home the way Wexford and his team used all the information available to them to find out more about her. And I really found it realistic the way lots of lines of enquiry where examined and excluded while others they persuade and even on occasions they got it completely wrong.
The story had a real mystery feel about it and I was amazed just how wrapped up in this story I felt. I think I needed to know the answers nearly as bad as Wexford did and that was simply because it was cleverly written and felt so real. Although I must admit I did wonder if the Police today would have the same level of problems. I think not but then this was written back in 1972.
The story was excellent and the further it went on the more mystery there seemed to be. I must admit for once I never had a clue what the answers where to this case and I was really impressed with the solution. There was such a clever twist to it I was totally taken by surprise by it. It made total sense but it was just something I had never considered or even thought off. With a conclusion that explained everything in great detail so the reader was left in no doubt to exactly what had happened and why.
Despite this being nearly the middle of the series of stories I found that I was in no way disadvantaged by not reading the previous stories and at no time did the Detective prefer back to previous stories. So from that perspective it could have been the first in the series as far as I was concerned.
What I really liked was I expected the story to just focus on the investigation, but it did not and I enjoyed the way the author brought in events in Wexford's personal Life. This helped me understand the character in greater detail and added to which I found what was been shared was interesting and left me wanting to know more about what was happening. It was a bit of light relief and one I enjoyed coming back to throughout the story.
Reg Wexford is this series of stories lead characters. I found him very down to earth and as a result easy to like and understand. I felt the author is very sympathetic to him and as such really knows and understand the mind of this character. As a result I found she explained exactly what he was thinking or planning clearly so it always made perfect sense. And because you saw him in his home setting too you had an all-round perspective of him and his values in life.
The story I felt was quite short but actually seemed dead right to tell an absorbing story. I would say it was was more of a well thought out story rather than a deep complicated one. I did not feel to taxed by it but always involved within it. Some Detective stories will have many twists and turns, with lots of blind allies for the Police to investigate. This story had less but well disguised and very surprising ones.
I really enjoyed this piece of fiction and will certainly be trying another from this series to see how it compares with this one. And while this was written a long time ago a lot of the issues raised within the story are still as relevant today such as Women's rights.
Sometimes I wonder why I do not embrace new things more. This is a good example where for many years people have been telling me that Ruth Rendell is an excellent crime writer. On this performance I have to say they are right. This was a very good, well thought out thriller full of mystery and suspense with an excellent twist to it.
Price: 2.94 New at Amazon
Year first published: 1972
More about the author: www.bookrags.com/biography/ruth-rendell
Thanks for reading my review.
This is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
© CPTDANIELS March 2012.