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A Sleeping Life (2000)

A Sleeping Life (2000)
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Rating
3.78 of 5 Votes: 1
ISBN
0375704930 (ISBN13: 9780375704932)
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English
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publisher
vintage
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A Sleeping Life (2000)
A Sleeping Life (2000)

About book: Set in the late 1980s, this Inspector Wexford mystery is one of my favourites, for it shows Ruth Rendell in top form, masterly presenting us with a puzzle and a subject rarely if ever tackled by male crime writers. As is typical of Rendell's Wexford stories, the inspector's home life and work collide again, main plot and sub-plot serving to help the reader unravel the murder mystery. Presenting us with a veritable barrel of red herrings this time, Rendell succeeds in keeping the murder of middle-aged, unattractive spinster Rhoda Comfrey an enigma until the last few pages.As a writer, I guessed at the truth about half-way through the novel, although I suspect that most readers won't. That sounds arrogant of me, I know, but it merely means that as writers, we are more familiar of plot construction and writerly tools used to spin a great yarn. At the end Inspector Wexford, in order to elicit a confession from the murderer, presents us with an alternative version of events, one that probably most crime writers would have plumbed for - but then, the Queen of Crime Writers, Ruth Rendell, isn't just anybody and she shows us "underlings" how to construct an unusual murder mystery that comments on society without preaching from a soap box AND how to showcase a baffling crime, where the murder victim is just as mysterious as the murderer. Rendell's Inspector Wexford mysteries are told with a great sense of humour and with deep humanity. In her descriptions of the man and his subordinates, his family members and home life, Rendell reveals an admiration for the work of detectives as they should be, not the way they are today, and a great affection for Wexford the man, perhaps a character drawn from a real life friend or representing an amalgamation of favourite family members? Wexford looks for the psychology of the case and allows intuition and "feelings" to intrude on his investigation, even when it prompts him to jump to wrong conclusions. Often flying in the face of those around him who insists that only hard facts and evidence can lead to unmasking perpetrators, Wexford doggedly pursues all avenues, really not leaving any stones unturned, no matter how tiny the pebble of "illumination" might be. One feels that Wexford would never have been happy becoming superintendent or chief constable. He is content with the rank he's achieved in a career spanning some 40 years, because it allows him hands-on involvement in solving cases.The plot may be set in a period when women's lib in the UK was only just beginning to form a coherent and public voice (I was already living in the country by then and know only too well the type of chauvie nonsense Wexford's daughter is confronting) - however, time moves at snail's pace when it comes to changing attitudes, so much of the social background of this story still rings true in the 21st century. Sadly.I won't give away anything of the plot, because it would totally spoil the surprise for you lovely Goodreads bookworms. Let's just say: Rendell is a master at characterisation and few crime writers can match her brilliant and insightful observations on society and characterisations of villains, victims and heroes. She proves this once again with A Sleeping Life.

Review "Rendell is a master of the form." --_The Washington Post Book World_ "An unusual detective story. . .intelligent, well-written, with a surprising twist." --_The Times Literary Supplement_ "Ruth Rendell. . .retains her place of highest distinction in the field." --_The New York Times Book Review_ "The best mystery writer anywhere in the English-speaking world." --_The Boston Globe_ "No one can take you so totally into the recesses of the human mind as does Ruth Rendell." --_The Christian Science Monitor_ Product Description Rhoda Comfrey's death seemed unremarkable; the real mystery was her life. In A Sleeping Life, master mystery writer Ruth Rendell unveils an elaborate web of lies and deception painstakingly maintained by a troubled soul. A wallet found in Comfrey's handbag leads Inspector Wexford to Mr. Grenville West, a writer whose plots revel in the blood, thunder, and passion of dramas of old; whose current whereabouts are unclear; and whose curious secretary--the plain Polly Flinders--provides the Inspector with more questions than answers. And when a second Grenville West comes to light, Wexford faces a dizzying array of possible scenarios--and suspects--behind the Comfrey murder. Brilliantly entertaining, exceptionally crafted, A Sleeping Life evokes the dark realities, half-truths, and flights of fancy that constitute a life.
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Reviews
Natalie
"A Sleeping Life" is the second Ruth Rendell mystery I've read. The first was "From Doon with Death." I figured out what was going on in both books within the first fifty or so pages, which rather defeated their purpose as mysteries--yet both were still so well-written that I finished them anyway. Rendell's ability to evoke the atmosphere of the English countryside, her sense of humor, her intellectual literary allusions, and her surprisingly progressive social views all made the books worth reading for me despite the absence of the whodunit aspect. And actually, I still have faith that she could surprise me in other books--the two mysteries I've read thus far were written in the 1960s and 1970s, and I think, without giving anything away, that might have something to do with why I solved them both so quickly.
Philip
I enjoyed my re-read of THE VEILED ONE, and it left me wanting more Wexford, so I've settled on a re-read of A SLEEPING LIFE, which I've already read twice. Although I don't remember much about the particulars of the story, I do remember the murder victim's peculiar 'sleeping' life. During the course of the Wexfords Rendell came up with several unusual traits or situations for her characters - in addition to this one, A GUILTY THING SURPRISED and THE BABES IN THE WOOD come to mind. 6/06: Interesting that although I remembered particular details about the murder victim that led to her murder, I didn't remember who did it or why. Wexford is a very literate man, and this is probably one of the more 'literary' Wexford novels. An interesting aspect of this novel is that it points up the way disabled or imperfect children were dealt with not so very long ago: they were often shut away in institutions and seldom referred to by family members or friends.
Bettie☯
Read by................ Nigel AnthonyTotal Runtime......... 5 Hours 52 MinsDescription: A body is found in a rural town outside London, and the townsfolk easily identify the victim. Yet, who was she, really? No one knows her real name, occupation, or address, much less who would want to kill her. Rhoda Comfrey's death seemed unremarkable; the real mystery was her life. A wallet found in Comfrey's handbag leads Inspector Wexford to Mr. Grenville West, a writer whose plots revel in the blood, thunder, and passion of dramas of old; whose current whereabouts are unclear; and whose curious secretary - the plain Polly Flinders provides the Inspector with more questions than answers. And when a second Grenville West comes to light, Wexford faces a dizzying array of possible scenarios--and suspects--behind the Comfrey murder.Having just found all the TV series of Rendell's Wexford on youtube this morning, also discovered a young Colin Firth in Master of the Moor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7ez0...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* No More Dying Then (Inspector Wexford, #6)3* Murder Being Once Done (Inspector Wexford, #7)3* Some Lie and Some Die (Inspector Wexford, #8)3* Shake Hands Forever (Inspector Wexford, #9)3* A Sleeping Life (Inspector Wexford, #10)3* Not in the Flesh (Inspector Wexford, #21)2* The Vault (Inspector Wexford, #23)
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