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Ruth Rendell in general

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      01.11.2003 19:55
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      skip this first bit to be able to read the review with capital letters intact. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. a. < br> Picking up a Ruth Rendell psychological crime thriller for the first time and reading the first few pages, the new reader could be forgiven if they subconsciously thought how ordinary it all seemed. As each character is introduced there appears to be nothing exceptional about them. They could be your next-door neighbours, the person sitting opposite you on a train, one of the mothers at the school gates. Just normal people like you and I think we are. The first few pages of 'Adam and Eve and Pinch Me' are no exception as even I, a prolific Ruth Rendell reader, wondered where this was all leading-and so what was this detailed trivia all about? The reader is introduced to Minty, a pale young woman living alone in a house left to her by an Auntie. By day she irons shirts in a local dry cleaning shop in a nearby North London suburb. It soon becomes clear that Minty has a problem judging by the amount of times in a day she washes her hands, her clothes, her hair, bathes herself, cleans her house, and won?t eat any foods that are 'messy'. A sympathy for Minty soon develops as we realise her fiancée had been killed in a rail crash and she is beginning to see and hear his ghost in her immaculate living room. Yes, we all think we've known somebody like Minty. Living next door to Minty in the quiet terraced streets was a kindly middle-aged married couple that regularly invite her out to the cinema. They feel sorry for her, losing her fiancée and all that. The husband, a police officer, and his wife privately consider Minty to be a little strange but gentle and that she wouldn't hurt a fly. Minty's obsession with cleanliness becomes more apparent as we read on and although she adored her dead fiancée, prior to his death she had lent him all her inheritance money left her by her deceased Auntie and resentment had begun to kick in. This money was earmarked to install a new shower unit in her bathroom as her fixation on cleanliness meant she loathed sitting in her own dirty bath water. Now Jock was dead the money had disappeared with him and he apparently had no living relatives. At this stage in the book the author has built a fascinating picture. The reader can see in their minds the dull streets, the bus routes, and the mundane lives of the people who live and work in them and yet we can sense a disturbing undercurrent. The reader is gripped and eager for the plot to unfurl when the author suddenly takes us to South Wessex where we are introduced to the beautiful, but very poor, Zillah and her two small children living in a squalid cottage on a rich landowner?s estate. The millionaire Conservative Member of Parliament for South Wessex, who she has known since they were children, is proposing marriage to her. Not because of undying love but because he's a practising homosexual and is concerned he may be outed and lose his parliamentary seat. Zillah's poverty stricken circumstances have been made worse by the death of her husband in the previous year in a rail crash. He had never been a good provider and disappeared for months at a time but he had been the father of her children and she missed him so, whilst this proposal doesn?t appeal to her, the idea of a life of luxury as a prominent MP's wife with an agreement of an 'open' marriage certainly does appeal and, after all, she is a widow isn't she? The location moves to Swiss Cottage where we join a couple shopping in Waitrose. They could present a comic sight to the casual onlooker and for the reader with an imagination as he is matchstick thin, a diagnosed anorexic, and she is clinically obese, but we soon see that they are very much in love and are having a concerned conversation about their next door neighbour, a young woman in a highly paid job, who had fallen head over heels for a charming young man who seemed to have appeared from nowhere. The scene is set. The rea der is now well and truly hooked. Let the plotting begin. Indeed, the readers are busy in their own mind hazarding guesses as to how these characters, and many more still to meet, all become inextricably linked by circumstance, coincidence and fate. Yet, the majority of these people never meet each other but what happens to each of them is determined by the actions of others. No matter how small a part a character has to play in the scenes that unfold, the author describes them in such a detailed way that the reader knows that sherry drinking baby-sitter, the disapproving housekeeper, that nanny, the strange neighbours with the mangy cat, the blowsy woman who works in the North London dry cleaners alongside the troubled Minty; they are all damaged in some way or another, some more damaged than others, that the reader could be forgiven in thinking they recognise them but each individual is carefully crafted and never stereotypical. The author has a rare skill of recounting a sense of place such as a luxury penthouse, a scruffy cottage, and a gourmet restaurant without being over descriptive leaving the reader to see the pictures in their minds. As the story unfurls and the strands draw together the horrors and frailty of the human mind demonstrate a master of story telling at work. This psychological crime thriller is gripping and un-put-down-able. I read this novel on a same day return rail journey from Dorset to Waterloo and back-a total of five hours uninterrupted reading. As I read the closing page I had that sense of sadness because I had finished reading it and wondered if I should have savoured it by reading it over a longer period of time but no-it was pure joy to be so deeply absorbed in such a masterpiece written by the queen of this genre. ISBN 0-09-942619-6 www.randomhouse.co.uk £6.99

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