Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Girl Next Door – Ruth Rendell

Crime Fiction 4*'s
Crime Fiction
4*’s

I have long been a fan of Ruth Rendell and she was one of the authors who got me into reading crime novels but I have been less impressed with some of her more recent books which seemed less defined than the brilliance of her earlier writing. However when I saw that she had written The Girl Next Door, I knew I was going to have to read it. Why? Well it is set in Loughton in Essex, an area I visited as a child, it has buried hands, secret passages and a murder committed during the Second World War.

At the beginning of this book we meet the murderer, we know one of the victims and we also know why the murder was committed. I found the character of the murderer and his victim the sketchiest of all, he seemed a little one dimensional but the story soon flips to the discovery of the hands in a biscuit tin found seventy years later.

The story almost appears to change genre with the discovery as we meet the now elderly characters who at the time of the murder were young children living in the area. These children had played in foundations of an unbuilt house inventing games under the ground. The story then concentrates on these characters as some of them meet after many years apart to help the police investigating (unwillingly) the provenance of the hands. These meetings have consequences that couldn’t have been foreseen as in the last years of their lives each of the characters have different challenges to face.

Ruth Rendell does what she does best, she examines the motives of these people making the subtle point that even in old age, people make mistakes, they still learn things about themselves and they can change the way they behave. There are some lovely people including the dear Mrs Moss who used to clean for the murderer as well as the misguided and the downright rotten.

The descriptions of Loughton bought the place to life and the plot was well executed although I found that in parts the looking back at how people said things a little repetitive at times but it did underline the enormous changes that someone in their late seventies would have seen over their lifetime.

I enjoyed this book although it wasn’t quite what I expected but it was less entertaining for that.
I’d like to thank the publishers, Random House, who gave me a copy of this book to review ahead of the publication date of 14 August 2014

Author:

A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

20 thoughts on “The Girl Next Door – Ruth Rendell

  1. LOL. I like how “buried hands” caught your interest. Isn’t it almost creepy how a murderer could be living next door to you and you wouldn’t know? Last year or so, there was another investigation at this house like a mile from us. It was in an area that we drive by all the time. I don’t know if they had found anything in this cold case though. Can’t remember. I’ll try to Google it.

    1. Yeah we had a well known murderer Malcolm Webster (his story was televised as The Widower not long ago) living and working in my hometown; it’s odd to think evil was so close. Yet he looked so nondescript and unthreatening! Goodness Cleo you do read at some pace! x

      1. Oh I remember that one! I spent my late teens living & working not far from Fred West, but as far as I know I didn’t meet him! You just never know… Thank you, I don’t read quite as fast as it appears as I’m still posting the reviews of books I read on my holidays!

  2. Cleo – Like you, I like Rendell’s work very much, especially her earlier novels. Still, this one does sound a good read. And I’ve always respected the way she brings past and present story threads together. Glad you enjoyed it.

    1. I loved the way she gave a voice to the septuagenarians, it was quite a change to have real life-like characters. Their memories of playing together as children contrasting with their lives now was really well done.

  3. Glad you enjoyed this even if not quite as much as some of her earlier books. It’s amazing really that she’s still managing to turn out good stuff, and is still quite prolific too…

  4. I can’t resist asking Cleopatra, was the biscuit tin the hand was found in one which used to contain chocolate fingers, by any chance. Sniggers stupidly. It’s VERY bad form to laugh at your own jokes, I know.

    I do like Ruth Rendell, and even more her Barbara Vine persona, but i agree she’s not as taut and immersive as once she was

    Right time for me to hand-over (more sniggers) to your next contributor

  5. The title of Adam and Eve and Pinch Me intrigued me! And like Lady Fancifull, I prefer the Barbara Vine novels. I don’t read the Wexfords any more, although I know where I stopped so I can catch up some day. I loved Asta’s Book too Cleo, although I think The Blood Doctor is my favourite. I think as Rendell, and PD James too, have got older, they struggle now to write about young people, or normal average working class people, as they are so distant from both groups of people – one of the difficulties that come with massive success, I guess. I’m sure I could cope with it though!

    1. You are quite right that Rendell/Vine struggles to pitch the younger person in a modern setting right these days which is why I think this standalone works quite well in that it dealt with the older person/ younger in a historical time period which did work. I do find something cosy about reading these books as her writing is quite distinct.

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