Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2017

The Monster in the Box – Ruth Rendell

Crime Fiction
4*s

The Monster in the Box is the twenty-second of Ruth Rendell’s books to feature Chief Inspector Reg Wexford and here he is, in the present, although nowhere near as old as he’d have to be if he’d aged in line with his first appearance back in 1964 in From Doon With Death!

Pleasingly in what turned out to be Wexford’s last outing as a paid policeman, although he does appear retired in both The Vault and No Man’s Nightingale, he gives the reader an insight into his early years right back to before he got married and his belief that a man who has stalked him on and off over the years from that time has reappeared. I was happily carried away with this nostalgia for times gone by which is wickedly edged with something far more sinister by way of this maybe stalker Eric Targo. Wexford’s first challenge is to be certain that it is the same man, as previously Targo sported a livid birthmark on his neck which he kept covered with a scarf and the man he’s recently encountered doesn’t have one, but then medical advances have been made in the intervening period. Wexford is concerned enough that he opens up to his close friend DI Burden over wine and a minimal amount of cashew nuts, for the first time that he believes that not only has Targo followed him through the decades, but that he is a serial killer. Wexford only reason for keeping this information secret is that he has not one scrap of evidence, but he’s determined to find some now!

The tone of the book is entirely in keeping with the look back over the years and never more so than when describing the investigation into Elsie Carroll’s death which makes you realise just how unsophisticated the field was back then. Elsie’s husband John is tried for the murder but released on a technicality but Wexford suspects the killer was Targo despite his seemingly cast-iron alibi. Although the tone is reminiscent of older generations throughout time with the ‘well of course we didn’t have….’ And the ‘…. Hadn’t been invented then’ types of phrases the most evocative parts of the past are in the descriptions of the evenings spent by those in the neighbourhood at the time of Elsie Carroll’s death.

Intertwined with this storyline is one concerning Burden’s second wife, Jenny, and the new DS Hannah Goldsmith who are concerned that something untoward is happening with one of Jenny’s former pupils Tamima. This is a complex storyline includes a DS who has done all the awareness training and the way a Muslim family bring up their daughter makes for uncomfortable reading not because of the cultural sensitivities but the ham-fisted way the women go about trying to prove that there aren’t any, the result is that this aspect can either be viewed as an inspired way of trying to enlighten her readers to the obvious conflicts or as being borderline offensive. I took the former viewpoint but I’m not sure everyone would.

As always Ruth Rendell provides her most solid of policemen with a solid mystery, and a satisfying read. Granted, this isn’t up to the standard of some of her greatest books, but there is a proper mystery, the book moves forward at a steady investigative pace and the backwards look over Reg’s personal life was a really lovely and welcome touch.

The Monster in the Box was my fourteenth read in my Mount TBR Challenge 2017, so I’m still on target to hit 36 books purchased before 1 January 2017. I don’t know when I purchased this book but it was on a shelf of books that I planned to read before the end of 2014 – that target got missed!

mount-tbr-2017

 
 

First Published UK: 2009
Publisher: Hutchinson
No of Pages:  288
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series 
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

Posted in Weekly Posts

This Week in Books (May 10)

This Week In Books
Hosted by Lipsy Lost & Found my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I am reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words

At the moment I am reading The Monster In The Box by Ruth Rendell which is one of the books for my Mount TBR 2017 Challenge. I love Ruth Rendell but this book published in 2009 didn’t get good early reviews and it has languished on my shelf for ages so I thought it time to find out for myself.

Blurb

Wexford had almost made up his mind that he would never again set eyes on Eric Targo’s short, muscular figure. And yet there he was, back in Kingsmarkham, still with that cocky, strutting walk.

Years earlier, when Wexford was a young police officer, a woman called Elsie Carroll had been found strangled in her bedroom. Although many still had their suspicions that her husband was guilty of her violent murder, no one was convicted.

Another woman was strangled shortly afterwards, and every personal and professional instinct told Wexford that the killer was still at large. And that it was Eric Targo. A psychopathic murderer who would kill again…

As the Chief Inspector investigates a new case, Ruth Rendell looks back to the beginning of Wexford’s career as a detective, even to his courtship of the woman who would become his wife. The villainous Targo is not the only ghost from Wexford’s past who has re-emerged to haunt him in the here and now… Amazon

I have just finished The Night Visitor by Lucy Atkins which was published on 4 May 2017 and in a quirk of fate one of the protagonists reminded me a little of the characters Ruth Rendell invented.

Blurb

Professor Olivia Sweetman has worked hard to achieve the life she loves, with a high-flying career as a TV presenter and historian, three children and a talented husband. But as she stands before a crowd at the launch of her new bestseller she can barely pretend to smile. Her life has spiralled into deceit and if the truth comes out, she will lose everything.

Only one person knows what Olivia has done. Vivian Tester is the socially awkward sixty-year-old housekeeper of a Sussex manor who found the Victorian diary on which Olivia’s book is based. She has now become Olivia’s unofficial research assistant. And Vivian has secrets of her own.

As events move between London, Sussex and the idyllic South of France, the relationship between these two women grows more entangled and complex. Then a bizarre act of violence changes everything.
The Night Visitor is a compelling exploration of ambition, morality and deception that asks the question: how far would you go to save your reputation? Amazon

Next I am planning on reading The Cleaner by Elisabeth Herrmann which was published on 23 March 2017.

Blurb

Pools of blood, scenes of carnage, signs of agonising death – who deals with the aftermath of violence once the bodies have been taken away?

Judith Kepler has seen it all. She is a crime scene specialist. She turns crime scenes back into habitable spaces. She is a cleaner.

It is at the home of a woman who has been brutally murdered that she is suddenly confronted with her own past. The murder victim knew Judith’s secret: as a child Judith was sent to an orphanage under mysterious circumstances – parentage unknown. And the East German secret police were always there, in the background. . . .

When Judith begins to ask questions, she becomes the target of some powerful enemies.

And nothing will ever be the same again. Amazon

So what are you reading this week? Have you read any of these choices? Do you want to?