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George Marshalson loves his eighteen year old daughter, Amber, dearly, although she hasn't always been the easiest of daughters since the death of his wife at an early age and his subsequent remarriage. When he finds her body just a short walk from his house early one morning, he is devastated. Another family is to be just as devastated when a second girl, Megan, is found dead and, as she was friends with Amber, it is obvious that the two deaths are linked somehow. As Chief Inspector Wexford begins to investigate, it soon becomes clear that Amber and Megan were involved in something less than sanitary. Nevertheless, although there are plenty of suspects, there is no proof that any of them committed the murders and the months begin to tick by. Can Wexford get to the bottom of the case, while coping with his own daughter's decision to have a baby for her ex and his new girlfriend?
Ruth Rendell is an author who can be very touch and go. Some of her books are brilliant; others are decidedly ropey. Her best work is usually saved for the Wexford series and thankfully, this is no exception. Chief Inspector Wexford is a great character. He is a family man, without the usual baggage that so many fictional detectives have - he doesn't have women problems and he's not a big drinker. His only vices are good food and the occasional bout of sarcasm. In each book, he has a family 'crisis' to deal with, and this one is no different. His daughter, Sylvia, is pregnant with her ex's baby, that she is planning to carry and then give up for him and his childless girlfriend. Wexford and his wife are deeply upset, believing that Sylvia is not making the right decision; the situation is all the more poignant because Amber and Megan were pregnant when they died, which could be connected to the case.
Wexford's sidekick, Inspector Burden is another great character, although he unfortunately doesn't feature all that much in this book. He is very strait-laced, although he too has children, and is often disapproving of the state that the murder victims find themselves in. His background is very interesting and it's just a shame that we aren't really given an update to it here. However, there are a number of other younger officers who come to the fore here, one of whom plays a major role in the breaking of the case. Much as I like Wexford and Burden, Rendell has done the right thing to start introducing some fresh blood into the series - after all, murder investigations do involve much more than just a couple of detectives.
The plot is a good one; there are a number of suspects and information is drip-fed to the reader slowly during the course of the book so that the pacing is even and there is never time to get bored. There are perhaps too many red herrings, which make the story a lot longer than it needs to be, and at times, it becomes difficult to follow who is who - there are just so many characters and it is hard to remember exactly what role they play without skipping back a couple of chapters. A list of the main characters and a brief introduction to their role in the book would have been really useful just to prevent the constant back-skipping. However, on the whole, it is a well-crafted piece of crime fiction and is actually a lot less complicated than some of her other Wexford novels.
One criticism I have of the book is that it is becoming more and more clear that Rendel is aging and has a different outlook on detection compared to her younger colleagues. This is obviously a very natural thing; however, there is constantly a feeling that she really doesn't know very much about technology and its role in solving crime. Everything seems to come down to old-fashioned detecting; Wexford even seems to frown upon using the Internet to gain information, even when it would be the most time-efficient way of finding it. In some ways, this is good, because the concentration is on the interactions between the characters and the police, who are forced to use creative thinking to solve the crime. However, it also makes the book feel unrealistic in this day and age, especially compared to authors such as Peter James, who are really up on their technology.
I'm not the biggest fan of Rendell's writing style. It can be incredibly sloppy at times, as though her editor hasn't done a proper job. This particular book isn't too bad, although some of the sub-plots could have been streamlined a little more than they were. Rendell does enough to tell the story, but no more, and there are certainly much better and more consistent writers out there. Ultimately, though, most people reading this genre will not be looking for a good piece of literature - they just want a good story that keeps them turning the pages, and from that point of view, Rendell does deliver. Sometimes though, the writing style between the Wexford series and Rendell's stand-alone novels is so different that I wonder if she has a ghost-writer. Obviously, I have no evidence to suggest that is true, but it is often hard to believe that it is the same author.
For fans of the Wexford novels, this twentieth novel in the series is a must-read. However, it will also appeal to those who are new to the series, although there is definitely an advantage to reading the books in order - just to get to grips with Wexford and Burden and their back stories. The book is certainly a page-turner and the minor quibbles I have can easily be forgiven. And there is a lot to be said for the fact that this series has been going on for so many years now and yet Rendell is still able to come up with a fairly original storyline. It's definitely worth a read if crime fiction is your thing. Recommended.
The book is available from Amazon for £3.96. Published by Arrow Books, it has 384 pages. ISBN-10: 0099491141
End in Tears by Ruth Rendell has a well designed cover, making it a pleasure to pick up and read. I also found it an interesting and thought provoking read.
I am not too much of a Wexford fan, even the name Kingsmarkham sounds so made up to me, and Wexford sounds like a cheese that never was. I have never done any police work, but I don't imagine it is probably done by cosy individuals like the Inspector who are not very good at computers.Presumably in order to redress this Rendell has introduced two new police colleagues,Detective Sergeant Hannah Goldsmith and DC Battacharya who provide some love interest, basically Hannah is a liberated individual who believes in sex on the first date, whereas Bal would prefer to go on a few dates and get to know a person first (I'm with him)
I don't mean to sound sarcastic, as I have read the book with appreciation.I just don't believe its a realistic description of a modern murder investigation. I think the plot which deals with two young murder victims involved in a surrogacy trade has been well researched,the subject is very thought provoking for the reader who is led to consider the devastating effect of surrogacy on all members of the family, including siblings and grandparents.The plot is very readable, and one meets with several interesting folk along the way,such as the great grandmother in her 90's who lives in a cottage in the woods, and enjoys badger watching.
Yes its a thumbs up for a lovely holiday read.
A block of concrete is dropped from a bridge and hits the car in front of the one driven by Amber Marshalson. A passenger in the car is killed. Some weeks later Ambers father finds his daughter bludgeoned to death after a night out and its obvious to the police that Amber was the real target in the earlier attack. Why would anyone be so determined to kill an eighteenyear-old single mother? Where did Amber get the thousand pounds which she has in her bag and why has she recently been to Frankfurt with an acquaintance who has disappeared?
Ive been a fan of Ruth Rendells Chief Inspector Wexford novels since they first appeared more than a quarter of a century ago. Wexford himself (who must surely be coming up to retirement sometime soon) tries to be politically correct but doesnt always succeed in the finer points. Hes certainly not in tune with current trends. He and his wife Dora are shocked to find that their divorced daughter is pregnant, and uncomprehending when they realises that Sylvia is to be a surrogate mother for her ex husband and girl friend. For the first time I thought about surrogacy from the point of view of the grandparents who would be parting with their grandchild.
Inspector Mike Burden was more interesting in his youth when he did occasionally kick over the traces. Now he seems to be little more than a foil for Wexford, albeit a rather well-dressed and modish one. This is the twentieth book in the series and I suspect it wouldnt harm Burden to get a transfer to another force where his abilities could be tested. The books have always been dominated by the middle-class, white male and its probably to update a long-running series that two new members of the team have been introduced and this was my only problem with the book.
Detective Sergeant Hannah Goldsmith isnt a character; shes a caricature with political correctness taken to awkward extremes. A little would have added depth to the character, fleshed her out, but it was overdone. I couldnt believe that a woman who seemed to worry about whether or not it was politically correct to worry about being politically correct could function as a Detective Sergeant. Frankly she annoyed me and I couldnt relate to her at all. Even less convincing is the new Detective Constable Baljinder Bhattacharya. As the name gives away, hes definitely not white, but the intention seems to be to stress the just like us really aspect of race. Personally, Ive always felt that we should celebrate, enjoy and appreciate racial differences and I felt that too little was made of a potentially good character.
Once I got over the points about the two new characters I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Essentially its a book about babies. Theres Ambers baby who seems destined to be left with grandparents who make no bones about having no particular feelings for him. He reminds the grandfather of the daughter hes lost and the step-grandmother obviously resents the fact that shell be the one who has to look after him. Then theres the baby that Sylvias expecting and the wedge that the baby drives between Wexford and his wife. The background on surrogacy was carefully researched and well-presented. Id never before thought through the consequences for other members of the family or the feelings of the woman who is to be the mother of the child after it is born. Rendell brings all this out without being heavy-handed.
There have always been comparisons made between P D James Adam Dalgliesh novels and Ruth Rendells Wexford series. What takes Rendell head and shoulders above James for me is the clarity of her writing. It is an absolute joy to read and puts me in mind of Agatha Christie at her very best in some of the mid-period Miss Marple stories. She uses simple, easy-to-understand sentence structures and never uses a long word where a short one will do. She has no need to show off and theres none of the self-indulgent padding that you find in the Dalgliesh novels. I dont think theres a superfluous sentence in the book.
The plot is superb and probably one of the best that Rendell has produced. I was so convinced that I knew how the plot would resolve itself that when it seemed to be going in a different direction I reread the preceding chapter to see if Id missed the exposure of the murderer. When all was finally revealed it was so totally, utterly obvious that I couldnt understand how Id failed to see the answer. Every one of the clues was there. Id read them, noted them and completely failed to understand their significance. It was simply brilliant.
Had the characters of Baljinder Bhattacharya and Hannah Goldsmith been better handled Id have unhesitatingly given the book five stars. The four stars are well-deserved though and the book is definitely recommended.
Hardcover 336 pages (October 20, 2005)
Price: £17.99 but available on Amazon for £12.59 in January 2006