Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Face of Trespass – Ruth Rendell

Psychological Thriller 4*'s
Psychological Thriller

This is one of Ruth Rendell’s stand-alone novels, one of those where she chooses a subject to be pitied and then reveals exactly how flawed the human race is.

It cheers people knowing others are unhappy, don’t you think?

Gray Lanceton had started his literary career with promise, well enough that he’d had more money to spend than he thought but for the last three years he hasn’t written a word. Living in a hovel on the edge of a forest his only contact the milkman and his once a week foray to the bank to withdraw four pounds to live off and to the library to choose a selection of books. What went so wrong? What happened to the young man who appeared to have life at his fingertips? Gray had met Drusilla, a young bored and beautiful wife to a wealthy older man but before the story starts the affair had finished; Drusilla had made one demand too far.

It was a pity, he thought, that uncomplicated joy lasts so short a time, that it must always give way rapidly to practicalities and plans.

The beauty of Ruth Rendell’s books is how she draws damaged characters so very well and in so few words, this book is less than 200 pages but deeply satisfying from the first to last page. We get an impression of Grey through his own despairing eyes but later get an impression of what he was from his friends and most revealing of all, from his step-father.

Inside each one of us is a frightened child trying to get out. The measure of our maturity is the extent to which we are able to keep that child quiet, confined and concealed.

The Face of Trespass was written in 1974 and as always with these older books I loved the detail of the period, where you went into a bank to withdraw money, one where four pounds could last someone a week? That barely buys me two cups of coffee! The sense of place, this book is set in Essex, where Rendell lived and worked, along with the convoluted travel arrangements Grey had needed to visit Drusilla in the days when they met while her husband, Tiny, worked and entertained and it was partly to this end that he had moved to the hovel before everything ended and he is left with the telephone that sits squat reminding him of happier days and yet tempts him with the ease of contact.

all the joy she’d brought him seemed to shine. If he could have her without demands, without complications! It was impossible – yet to hear her voice just once?

This was an enjoyable tale in a voyeuristic sort of way, I felt like I was watching a play, the scene set in the hovel before the action, including some farcical moments, got underway and then building up to a neat denouement.

I was saddened to hear Ruth Rendell had died on  2 May 2015 after a career as an author spanning from 1964 to the present with her latest book, Dark Corners, due to be published later this year. She will be sorely missed.


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

21 thoughts on “The Face of Trespass – Ruth Rendell

  1. I haven’t read this one so will look out for it. I do prefer the stand-alone novels but have a preference for those she wrote as Barbara Vine. For me they are just a little bit edgier, slightly more complex and have a great sense of location.


    1. I thought I’d read most of them but I don’t think I’d read it before. I am a big fan of her writing as Barbara Vine but wanted to choose a Ruth Rendell as my own little tribute to her.


  2. I don’t think I’ve read this one either. But I read so many of hers in one go a long time ago… and before I started reviewing, I didn’t make notes, so I forgot books all too easily.


    1. That was exactly why I started reviewing! I have an awful memory for names (and that includes the titles of books) I am fairly sure that I haven’t read this one before as nothing seemed familiar but of course if it was too many years ago I’ve probably just forgotten.


  3. I love the way Rendell was able to give the reader a portrait of a person like that. She was skilled at ‘peeling away the layers,’ so to speak, and showing what might lie beneath, and what’s behind it all. Glad you enjoyed this one, Cleo.


  4. I thouhgt all her standalones were Barbara Vine novels – I hadn’t realised she wrote some as Ruth Rendell too. See how educational your blog is?


    1. I suspect (but this is only my theory) that she decided to separate her psychological books, and this definitely falls into that category, by writing under Barbara Vine to distinguish from the Wexford books which although enjoyable were more police procedural. Quite a few of her early books are stand-alones and she has some short stories which I really enjoyed considering I often avoid these as being unsatisfying.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve only read a few of her books but I have really enjoyed how dark and insightful they seem. I will definitely look for this one.


    1. She does dark exceptionally well, particularly in her stand-alone novels. Have you tried her writing as Barbara Vine, they are my outright favourites, I’ve read many of them several times.


  6. I never knew she wrote books like this under her Rendell name. I shall have a look for an audio version I think – I find her character studies draw me in when I’m driving so much that I often take a wrong turn.


    1. Oh that sounds a little bit dangerous – I recommend her early stand-alones before she began writing these under the Vine name. I have to admit I’m also very fond of the fact that they reflect a bygone era that was reflective of society at the time.


  7. I have The End Of The Affair but I haven’t read it, embarrassingly. I’d like to read The Wicked Girls – The Killer Next Door went a bit insanely OTT at the end. Good characters, though!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It has to be A Judgement In Stone – this has one of the best opening lines ‘Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write.’ This book shows Rendell at her best peeling back the layers of the characters. It was written back in 1977 but one of her best under the Vine name – I really like Asta’s Book, The Brimstone Wedding and A Dark Adapted Eye.

      Liked by 1 person

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