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A Demon In My View (2003)

A Demon in My View (2003)
3.83 of 5 Votes: 2
0754086445 (ISBN13: 9780754086444)
black dagger crime
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A Demon In My View (2003)
A Demon In My View (2003)

About book: I’m re-reading A DEMON IN MY VIEW, one of the most highly-regarded novel from Ruth Rendell’s ‘early’ period (in this case, 1976 – it was her 14th novel and 6th stand-alone – as we know, she doesn’t have much good to say about the stand-alones that preceded it, but she hit her stride with DEMON and has never regressed) – she received her first CWA Gold Dagger for it. Even at this stage RR was quite adept at something she will do in all subsequent ‘phases’ of her career, up to and including her latest book, TIGERLILY'S ORCHIDS): setting a group of disparate, even eccentric people (one of whom is just a bit more eccentric than the others) together In a location (in this case, a large house converted into smaller flats) and allowing them to inter-act, usually with dangerous consequences. In Arthur Johnson we have the prototype for future obsessive RR characters such as Dolly in THE KILLING DOLL, Teddy Brex in A SIGHT FOR SORE EYES, Minty in ADAM AND EVE AND PINCH ME, Jeremy Quick in THE ROTTWEILER, and Mix Cellini in THIRTEEN STEPS DOWN.Rendell is unafraid to give away important information early on in a book (she famously reveals the denouement of A JUDGMENT IN STONE in the books opening lines), doing it in such a way that the reader can't help but continue reading. So we know the worst about Arthur Johnson, what he has done in the past and how that mannequin in the cellar serves to keep it from happening again, until it's inadvertently turned into the 'guy' for a Guy Fawkes bonfire...then the past and the present will collide for Arthur Johnson, with fatal results.

A Demon in my View is a gripping psychological thriller from Ruth Rendell, first published in 1976. A tale of the twisted mind of loner Arthur Johnson living his solitary life in the top flat of a shared house in London. Johnson is presented almost as much as a victim as those who suffer at the hands of the local serial killer known as the Kenbourne Killer, who for 25 years has terrorized women in West London. As ever, Rendell's descriptions and portrayal of the disordered mind of the believable psychopath is spot-on, to the point where he almost takes on the role of anti-hero. A disparate group of odd characters circle Johnson in the shared house - a set-up that would go on to serve Rendell so well in future years. The plot's a tight affair, with the tension slowly building as the story progresses; an early example of how the author demonstrates a masterful control over both plot, pace, motivation and characterisation. In a way it's a product of its time, to the extent that she wouldn't have been able to construct such a believable narrative in the contemporary world; in the 1970s there were no mobile phones or CCTV, and people relied on writing letters and using communal public telephones to keep in touch. A great book, where Rendell's trademark dominance of the psychological thriller is on early display.© Koplowitz 2013
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Mitch McCrimmon
One of my favourite Ruth Rendell novels. This is one of her "standalone" novels, as opposed to the Inspector Wexford Series. I have read more than a dozen of her standalone novels since early 2013. I enjoyed them all so much that it is hard to pick a favourite. The standalone novels seem to have more depth than the Wexford detective stories; they are deeper character studies, but their real beauty is the great sense of humour, very much like Monty Python. For example, the main protagonist in "A Demon in My View" is a reclusive middle aged man living in a London boarding house or block of flats. He has a compelling urge to strangle women but he has developed a unique way of controlling his "demons". All the characters living in this house are interesting and funny, but especially the "strangler" - I find Rendell's perceptiveness and psychological depth, along with her great humour an irresistable combination.
Another early Rendell, this slim book is a tight little thriller. There are mistaken identities -Arthur Johnson and Anthony Johnson occupy the same small house, divided into furnished rooms and flats, along with a married couple, the husband’s great friend, and a young Asian girl. The house is lively with noise and activity, as the husband and wife are unhappy and boisterous, the single man loud and over-friendly, and the girl constantly on the shared telephone with her various admirers. Only the two Johnson men lead a quiet life. Arthur occupies the top floor, and we quickly learn that he is, at the least, disturbed, and quite possibly, dangerous. Anthony, the newcomer, is hard at work on his doctoral thesis – on psychopathic personalities! - and quietly in the grip of what looks to be an ill-fated love. Add an impromptu Guy Fawkes bonfire, jealous husbands, and, of course, a murder, and it looks like those psychopaths might be more than just a dry research subject for this rundown London neighborhood.
I recently read a book about a super agent who needed to save the world from a threat so terrible civilization would collapse. While reading this book I felt many emotions, chiefly annoyance, self blame and mild curiosity on how such stupidity could continue. I never felt an iota of dread in any of the 700 plus pages. "A Demon in My View" conjures up dread in that most drab of settings, a late 1960s london boarding house, from the very first page. The villain starts as a creepy caricature to be sure but is so deftly brought to life in an understated way that not only do you recognize him in your everyday interactions, he scares the pants off you. A superbly chilling read with a relentless ratcheting up of suspense throughout.
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