'End in Tears' by Ruth Rendell

Posted: July 5, 2007 in Book Reviews

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As Barbara Vine, Ruth Rendell does creepy like nobody’s business. I generally prefer her Vine titles to her Rendells. Though she uses great psychological complexity in both guises, she tends to get more inside the head of the disturbed characters when she writes as Barbara Vine. And to my mind, that’s the more interesting style.

I haven’t read all her books, but I have consumed the vast majority, including several featuring the indomitable Chief Inspector Wexford. Before reading End in Tears I liked him well enough, but really hadn’t enjoyed a Wexford novel as well as I’d hoped. With this latest addition to her oeuvre, I was more impressed.

The plot of End in Tears begins to thicken very early on, after the body count starts piling up a bit. Shortly after what on the surface appears to be a random act of highway violence, a beautiful, unmarried, beautiful mother dies. Then a friend of hers, similarly young, though not the beauty Amber was, is dead. The connection between them is friendship, but considering Amber dies with a thousand pounds in cash still in her pocket, and more stuffed in her desk drawer, Chief Inspector Wexford begins to think there’s more than friendship between these two girls, and whatever they were involved with it included large cash payments. The more he digs, the more disturbing details he finds.

Meanwhile, his own daughter is going through trials of her own. Divorced, she finds she’s pregnant by her ex-husband, who’s steady girlfriend seems likely to shortly become his wife. Dora Wexford is beside herself, understandably, and the family seems on the verge of being ripped apart.

At the home of Amber’s father and step-mother, her young child toddles around, calling “Mama, mama…” Inspector Wexford feels he owes that sweet little boy the resolution to his mother’s murder, though the final denouement turns out to be more shocking than he’d even imagined.

Ruth Rendell has crafted another taut, gripping tale with End in Tears. I’m still not as big a fan of her Rendell books, but this one had me in its grasp. A worthy entry to the world of Ruth Rendell.

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