Author: Ruth Rendell
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Jack Pertwee is getting married to Marilyn Thompson. His best friend Charlie Hatton, rude and obnoxious with everyone except Jack, and flush with funds, is to be his best man. On the night before the wedding, Jack invites his friends for a party at the local pub. Charlie never makes it home alive. Who could have done him in?
Was it George Carter who he mercilessly ribbed? Or Maurice Cullam who suffered on account of Charlie’s cruel wit?
The case is assigned to Inspector Reginald Wexford, who also gets involved with another case where a couple, Jerome and Dorothy Fanshawes, and their grown daughter, Nora, meet with an accident. The father and daughter are killed on the spot, the daughter charred beyond recognition. The mother is in a coma. When she recovers, she insists that her daughter is alive and in Germany.
Wexford is convinced that the two cases are related. Who then is the dead girl? And how did Charlie, a mere lorry driver, have so much money?
I enjoyed the plot and the manner in which the two investigations come together. The ends are tied together very neatly.
I also thought it rather clever how every character in the book took the story forward to its conclusion. This includes the newly installed lift at the police headquarters, which Wexford is very afraid of, and which seems to be a real character.
I couldn’t quite put a time stamp on this novel, but considering that lifts and washing machines are a relatively new technology here and the word, mongoloid, hasn’t yet been pronounced politically incorrect
This book reminded me a little of Agatha Christie though Ruth Rendell went a step further in her descriptions.
I enjoyed the omniscient narrator’s observations: The townsman calls grass green when in reality it is as many-coloured as Joseph’s coat.
Things in the world of fashion evolve more slowly for men than for women.
Apart from the observations, I was touched by the tone of the omniscient narrator: indulgent, faintly mocking, truthful, unwilling to suffer fools.
There were many references to classic literature, too many to mention, that I found very interesting.
As in all detective fiction, Inspector Wexford has a foil in the extremely trying and aptly named Inspector Burden.
I quite liked Wexford, old-fashioned, overweight, squeamish about listening to awkward subjects around lunch. He is the kind of detective that can grow on a reader. He has his weakness and he is not afraid of admitting it.
This was my second Ruth Rendell novel. I must now look out for her other books.