Thursday, November 14, 2013


Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford may be retired, however he’s just as smart and intuitive as ever.  Well, perhaps he is a tad more crotchety, especially when his reading of his beloved Decline and Fall Of the Roman Empire is interrupted, but for this reader that makes him all the more endearing.  While he’s reasonably content in retirement he does miss investigating crimes so when Detective Superintendent Burden asks his old boss to join in the chase Wexford doesn’t hesitate.

As it turns out this is an especially intriguing case - the Rev. Sarah Hussain, recently appointed vicar of St. Peter’s Church has been strangled.  To say that her appointment was greeted with enthusiasm would be a gross understatement.  She is not only female but biracial and a single mother.  Seems that bigotry and racism are alive and well in Kingsmarkham.  But would that be enough to commit brutal murder?

There is no shortage of suspects from Dennis Cuthbert, a church member who not only objected to Sarah but to her modernization of the liturgy, Gerald Watson, an old flame of Sarah’s who had taken to what some might stalking her and more.  In addition to the coterie of suspects subplots abound including the jam ne’er-do-well Jeremy Legg has gotten himself into by the return of his ex-wife when Jeremy is illegally renting her flat.  As it happens his tenants are Jason Sams and family.  Jason is the son of Wexford’s non-stop gossipy cleaning lady.  Then, who is the father of Sarah’s daughter, Clarissa?

Burden arrests gardener Duncan Crisp for the murder.  Wexford doesn’t believe the man is guilty which causes a rift between the two investigators.  Days aren’t at all sunny in Kingsmarkham and environs, which isn’t due to the weather.  All of this makes for intriguing reading and a reminder of what an ace writer of crime fiction Ruth Rendell truly is.  My one caveat is that for this reader too much space was devoted to subplots which tended to detract from the story’s building excitement.


- Gail Cooke

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