“If it weren’t for a ridiculous snobbery about ‘crime writing’,” John Mortimer once observed, “Ruth Rendell would be acclaimed as one of our most important novelists.” This is a mouthful from the late barrister, screenwriter, and creator of “Rumpole of the Bailey”.
Now 82 years young, Ruth Rendell, as I recently discovered, is author of more than 60 books, most of them crime fiction with a heavy psychological bent, including the Inspector Wexford series. She is master of the why-dunnit. Upon stumbling across her books at the library, I’ve become an instant fan. She is a contemporary/friend of P.D. James, sits for the Labour Party in the House of Lords, and is a former journalist. Over her decades as a novelist she has taken a particular interest in women’s issues, domestic violence, and the status of women in society.
All great credentials as far as I’m concerned.
I have no doubt she greatly influenced Elizabeth George and Tana French, both incredible contemporary novelists whom I urge you to read if you haven’t already. What sets Rendell apart from the pack is that she is dark, dark, dark. Not bloody, mind you, but DARK.
To begin the Wexford series, start with “From Doon with Death”. Right now, everyone is scrambling around in the novel trying to figure out who “Doon” is and why he has done this awful thing.
Granada made a television series of 48 Wexford episodes, which are available for rental. And they’ve dramatized several of her other novels as well. I just watched “The Master of the Moor”, which no doubt will give me nightmares for weeks. It stars Colin Firth. You will love it, you will hate it, and it will drive you crazy!
Beach weather is upon us…at least for today. For mystery nuts, these are great summer reads. Also, coming this month to an indie bookstore near you are Tana French’s fourth novel, “The Broken Harbor”–Irish noir at its finest, and from Wyoming the next in Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire series, “As The Crow Flies.” Johnson’s sheriff has got his own TV series beginning June 3 on A&E. (This is the main reason I signed up for cable. Seriously.) It’s called, simply, “Longmire”.