Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

No Man’s Nightingale – Ruth Rendell

Crime Fiction 4*s
Crime Fiction
4*s

I succumbed to a bit of a bug last week and was looking for something comforting to read, the book on the reading schedule just didn’t fit the bill so I turned to the tab of books I own, and found this Ruth Rendell book, the twenty-fourth in the Wexford series which sounded just what I needed. There are lessons to be learnt; firstly part of the need to add new books to my shelves despite having more than enough is the fear of being left with nothing to read that fits my mood, buying lots of books has averted that near disaster. Secondly, listing all my books was the right thing to do since No Man’s Nightingale was under a stack of books at the back of a cupboard and I may have succumbed to the temptations of newer shinier books sitting on the shelf where I can see them and forgotten all about this treasure.

So, if asked I would undoubtedly state that I prefer Ruth Rendell’s standalone work to the Wexford series and I prefer her writing as Barbara Vine to both but that is a little bit disingenuous as I am very fond of dear old Wexford, this was the man who shepherded in my crime reading tendencies in early adulthood and having checked out the publication dates he’d already had at least fourteen books published about him by then.

Anyway by the time we get to book number twenty-four Wexford is in retirement, busy hiding from his very loquacious cleaner and reading The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire interspersed with lunch with his daughter and various sedate outings with his wife and the occasional beer with his old partner Mike Burden. The changes to Wexford’s life seem to accurately reflect the change that retirement brings to many a successful man without turning the protagonist into a cliché and some of his thoughts and behaviours made me smile – it is good to have some gentle humour to soften the blow of a murder! And indeed life livens up a little when the local female vicar gets murdered. Mike Burden allows Wexford to view the crime scene and help out at first with clear direction with the investigation. The whole team get busy with yet the motive and the opportunity seem somewhat scarce. Surely the fact that she was a female member of the clergy couldn’t have got her killed? There are also musings that maybe this was a racist attack but Mike Burden doesn’t care about motives – he’s looking with someone with the opportunity.

This isn’t as tautly plotted as some of the earlier books, I got the feeling that Ruth Rendell was accurately reflecting how some of the older generation find the pace of recent change bewildering; how hard it is to be in sync with modern views, especially to do with the subjects touched on in this book, when the old ones have solidified over the years. That isn’t to say there isn’t a mystery and it has a good few red herrings but this isn’t a fast-moving plot and nor does it have the clear psychological bent of many of her books. There were however apart from the familiar ones, some interesting and well-defined characters, plenty of misinformation and the curious new relationship between Mike Burden and his old boss.

This was a satisfying read, all the more so because of course it is the last book in the series, there will be no more Wexford and perhaps that swayed my feelings in a more positive direction, or maybe the familiarity of the characters followed over a quarter of a century meant that although I hadn’t read this particular book before, the rhythm of the language the gentle exploration of themes was comforting.

Author:

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

22 thoughts on “No Man’s Nightingale – Ruth Rendell

  1. Wow, I am definitely missing out, not having read Ruth Rendell (or her Barbara Vine alter-ego), so I am going to check out this series. Thanks for sharing. This one sounds a bit like a comfort read, with familiar characters.

  2. I would have said exactly the same as you about which Ruth Rendell novels I prefer, and yet a return to good old Wexford sounds quite soothing, especially when you are laid low with a bug.

  3. Oh, I had no idea that RR and Barbara Vine were both the same! I vaguely remember having read some of the Wexford during my college days but I only have the foggiest memory of the details. Should keep one handy for those days when I am feeling flu-ey.

  4. Sorry to hear you were feeling ill last week, Cleo. Those Wexford novels are most definitely great medicine for those times, though, no doubt about it at all! I always admired Rendell’s ability to tell a deep, eerie psychological story, as well as do this series (and lots of other kinds of stories, too!). Glad you enjoyed this!

    1. She really did have a wealth of talent and there is something about the ‘voice’ of these books that reminds you that you are in safe hands – the story will entertain even if some weren’t quite as brilliant as others.

  5. I so understanding continuing to add books to your collection because you have to have the perfect read for your mood. 🙂

    I really want to try a stand alone Ruth Rendell but haven’t found it yet. I just do not enjoy long years and years series.

    1. I understand where you’re coming from with the long running series – this one spanned decades although I just used to read whatever the library had in stock. My favourite of her standalone books is A Judgement in Stone.

  6. I read this a few years ago. Like you I too prefer Rendell’s standalones & Vine novels, but it was good to return to Wexford in retirement and see how he fared. Ruth Rendell gave her fans many many years of reading pleasure.

  7. There’s something very comforting about a long-running series when you’re feeling a bit unwell. I never really got into Ruth Rendell, perhaps because I saw the TV series before reading the books and always had a problem with how gloomy poor Mike Burden always seemed to be. I’ve only read one of the late books – I should probably go back and read some of the earlier ones sometime, before Wexford retired. Hope you’re feeling better!

    1. Unfortunately as much as I admired her, the last few books in all guises didn’t quite match up to the brilliance of the earlier ones – I am pleased that I chose this one to entertain me when I was feeling poorly which made me far more forgiving of the TBR – willpower hat has now been lost!!

  8. I remember one of my mystery group members read this one last month – it was the female vicar angle that reminded me. She liked it, but had not read a Wexford book before – nor have I. Good to know that it hit the spot with you, especially because it’s the last in the series. Made you a bit nostalgic I suspect.

  9. You’re so funny. You were feeling poorly and turned to the comfort of a murder mystery. One’s initial reaction of comfort would be a warm and fuzzy read, not murder ^__^. Sorry you have a bug. I hope you’re getting in the needed R&R.

  10. My order of preference is the same as you, and Marina – Vine, Rendell standalone, Wexford. I stopped reading the Wexfords at the book immediately before Simisola – an easy name to remember, which I recall as I do want to read them. I’ll probably re-read plenty too, as it’s 25-ish (VERY ish!) years since I read some. I’ll definitely re-read all the Vines. I know this sounds dreadfully selfish but I’d hoped RR had left lots of unpublished material, but evidently not, if Val McDermid had to finish Dark Corners. I’ve left her last three standalones to read sometime as “special” books. This winter has been appalling for deaths in the literary and entertainment worlds. I do hope your bugs behind you – and you still manage to review! You’re made of stern stuff Cleo! xx

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