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A Guilty Thing Surprised (1987)

A Guilty Thing Surprised (1987)
3.75 of 5 Votes: 3
0345348117 (ISBN13: 9780345348111)
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A Guilty Thing Surprised (1987)
A Guilty Thing Surprised (1987)

About book: I do love a good Ruth Rendell book, and a strong (Chief) Inspector Wexford tale in particular. And that’s what this is. This, the fifth Wexford story, sees the man himself somewhere between the hard-nosed and frequently rude and bad-tempered upholder of the law, and the thoughtful, cultured, poetry-quoting senior detective he morphed into as Rendell hit her stride. Likewise, Wexford’s deputy, Burden, is not quite the unsung hero he was in the very earliest stories but still doesn’t quite have the levels of prudery he’d be so willing to express later on. Having said that, there are moments in this one where he seems to be getting there – his outrage at the openly flirtatious attitude of the main family’s au pair is a case in point – so in hindsight this seems to be the point at which Rendell decided on her characters’ defining traits. However, her ability to tell a great detective story remains as strong as ever – no development needed there!I won’t give too much away about the plot itself – that would be unfair in a review of a mystery tale. Suffice it to say it’s all very well considered, with excellent use of pace and language, and the denouement is genuinely surprising.

Read by............... Christopher RavenscroftTotal Runtime......... 5 Hours 30 MinsDescription: The discovery of Elizabeth Nightingale's broken body in the woods near her home could not have come as a bigger shock. Called in to investigate, Chief Inspector Wexford quickly determines that the Nightingales were considered the perfect couple - wealthy, attractive and without an enemy in the world. However, someone must have been alone with Elizabeth that night in the woods. Someone who hated - or perhaps loved - her enough to beat her to death. The case seems straightforward. But Wexford soon learns that beneath the placid surface of the Nightingales' lives lie undercurrents and secrets no one ever suspected.3* From Doon With Death (Inspector Wexford, #1)3* A New Lease of Death (Inspector Wexford, #2)3* Wolf to the Slaughter (Inspector Wexford, #3)2* The Best Man to Die (Inspector Wexford, #4)3* A Guilty Thing Suprised #53* Murder Being Once Done (Inspector Wexford, #7)3* Not in the Flesh (Inspector Wexford, #21)2* The Vault (Inspector Wexford, #23)
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I found Ruth Rendell late in her career and so have missed reading some of her Inspector Wexford mysteries. This one is from 1970. Her prose here, fluid and peppered with intriguing characters as usual, I simply gobbled up. The setting is a little thin -- a rich middle-aged couple with servants in a mansion of a house, presented with no apparent irony but no richness of description, either. Wexford is not as rich a character as he will be in the later books, either. Nevertheless it's a solid enough mystery and I'll be glad to read the next one.
Not her best and I have over-rated it on the stars simply because it is better than a 3! I got the impression that this (for the plot) idea worked up to the point where a good short story becomes a novel. There is plenty of slap-dash about this book - and Rendell is pretty good at slap-dash. My thoughts are that she got so far and then sprinted for the exits. It works, it is enjoyable and Reg Wexford holds it together nicely. Always good to have the opportunity to see that this greatest of all modern detectives was a work in progress for a long time. Burden is still more of a device or foil than the fully realised character he was to become. If this was a Beatles song think Rocky Racoon or Maxwell's Silver Hammer rather than Hey Jude.
Allan Nail
Not bad. Not great, but enjoyable. Rendell seems to have hit a stride with Christie-style whodunnits, and while that's fun on occasion, when I read about a policeman I expect a procedural. Really, other than his title, there's nothing to distinguish Wexford (in this novel, at least) from any old private dick. The humor is good, though, and I'm finding myself drawn to the recurring characters more. I suspect that she purposefully changed the character of Burden, though only time will make that clear. A solid entry, but now I needs meat.
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