Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Monster in the Box: Ruth Rendell

The Monster in the Box (2009), by British crime-writer Ruth Rendell, is the 22nd in the Inspector Wexford series.

I have been reading novels by Ruth Rendell for at least 30 years, and quite possibly longer. I am a fan of the Inspector Wexford series primarily, but I have also read my share of the stand alone novels, including some that were written as Barbara Vine. To be honest, the stand alone novels have often been too full of psychological tension for me; I did not enjoy them and I stopped reading them years ago. But I have kept up with the Wexford series.

Nevertheless, I was surprised to read of all the awards that she has won throughout her writing career. She is the recipient of the 1997 Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award and the 1991 Cartier Diamond Dagger for a Lifetime's Achievement. She won the Edgar Award for A Dark-Adapted Eye, and received Gold Dagger awards for A Fatal Inversion, Live Flesh, and A Demon in my View. And many other awards.

This book, The Monster in the Box, meanders along and doesn't have any great reveals of criminal culprits, yet the story telling and the characterization is so well done that I enjoyed it immensely.  The book centers on an obsession that Wexford has. He has seen again, after many years, a man who has stalked him off and on through most of his (Wexford's) adult life. Wexford believes him to be guilty of an unsolved murder from early in his career. And he wants very much to prove this.

A second story that we follow in this book is about a young Moslem girl whose family may be forcing her into an arranged marriage. There is a connection between the two "cases" -- neither is officially a case at the beginning. But the connection may be only coincidence.

Possibly I enjoyed this novel so much because it tells a story of Wexford's early career and how he met Dora, his wife, and combines that with the current happenings as he approaches retirement. Having read most of the series, this was like being with old friends. I like the friendship and working relationship of Wexford and his longtime partner, Mike Burden. I like the continuity.

I am now reading another book by Rendell, A Sight for Sore Eyes, published in 1998. This book is a stand alone book. I am reading it because I want to read The Vault, which is the next Wexford book, , and a sequel to A Sight for Sore Eyes. So I will be ending my reading year with Ruth Rendell books.

9 comments:

  1. Tracy - I think you've really hit on the two most appealing things about this story (besides Rendell's writing style, which I greatly admire). We do learn some interesting things about Wexfor'd backstory and I like that insight. And yes, the characters in the novel are done particularly well. Nice review

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. I am now further into A Sight for Sore Eyes now. A totally different experience. But great reading so far.

      Delete
  2. I have heard much about Ruth Rendell and her fiction but have never read any so far. I could, of course, start by reading two her novels in my collection which includes "The Copper Peacock and Other Stories." But, before I do, I'd sure like to pick up "The Coming of the Third Reich" by Richard J. Evans, WWII and Cold War being just two of my favourite themes. Thanks for these reviews, Tracy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. WWII and the Cold War are two of my favorites too. Especially in fiction.

      Delete
  3. I just realised, it's coming up to 40 years since FROM DOON WITH DEATH - Doesn;t seem possible! I am definitely going to read more Rendell in 2013 - thanks TracyK, really enjoyed the rview and your enthusiasm for the book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I want to reread all of the Wexfords, but it is hard to find the time to re-read old favorites and read the new ones. Wish I could read twice as many books in a year.

      Delete
  4. I'm a big fan of Rendell's Wexford books and like you prefer them to her psychological thrillers. I liked this one, but I prefer to reread her earlier ones. 'From Doon to Death mentioned by Sergio is one of my favourites.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I re-read From Doon with Death a few years ago, with the intention of reading them all from the beginning. (And I think I actually missed a few in the 90s, so may go back there first.)

      Delete
  5. i just discovered Ruth Rendell and Inspector Wexford this year. I'll definitly be reading more of hers.

    ReplyDelete