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Road Rage (1998)

Road Rage (1998)
3.74 of 5 Votes: 5
0440226023 (ISBN13: 9780440226024)
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Road Rage (1998)
Road Rage (1998)

About book: This one took me longer than usual to read. I am an Inspector Wexford series fan.Fat book for a mystery, and especially for a Ruth Rendell mystery. Most of her Wexford books are fairly slim; this was one around 350+ pages. And the title can be misleading. This is NOT a case of two people arguing, fighting or shooting each other because one bumped the other's car fender. This book, written in 1997, is about the 'rage' over a new highway being built through a particularly picturesque and pristine English countryside. This rage is generated by various environmental and other social groups which are protesting this new road.The story itself - several people are kidnapped, held hostage and threatened with death unless the government cancels the road project. One of those hostages is Inspector Wexford's wife, Dora.The reason it got five stars from me? The sheer delight of reading the book. The amount and variety of characters which Rendell can cook up - so many of them just awful, miserable, police-baiting, anti-social people - are amazing. I loved it. Every time Wexford or one of his staff, esp. Mike Burden, goes to interview someone it's a good chance that someone is going to be rude and disrespectful, close-mouthed and angry about something or anything, and an altogether colorful creation. (There were two notable exceptions; a married couple who love food and anything to do with it. They were rather pleasant.)There are clues galore, red herrings of course, and for once - yes once! - I figured it out about halfway through. I knew who the 'culprits' were and why. This did not diminish the enjoyment I got from reading this robust and solid mystery. The descriptions of the English countryside, and the various reactions characters had to its inevitable destruction, were also very well done.Five stars.

This is a good mystery, not a great mystery. It seemed to drag in places, but Rendell's overall writing is of such notable quality that it can't be ignored. The story begins with the discovery of a young woman's body hidden in the wood--a German girl who'd been traveling in southwestern England and then disappeared several months before. It then jumps to a band of eco-terrorists who call themselves Sacred Earth, who kidnap five people, one of them Inspector Wexford's wife Dora. This certainly shakes things up at the local police department, but then Dora is inexplicably released. And then things really get interesting.In the style of most English mysteries, this one does not start off with a bang, but rather some intriguing coincidences. The plot thickens as one of Sacred Earth's hostages turns up dead in the field overlooked by the cab company that not only is under observation for it's connection to the German girl's disappearance but also because it picked up all of Sacred Earth's hostages. In the style of a master craftsman, Rendell deftly ties up every detail.
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Great quote. Wexford says, "The trouble with psychology is that it doesn't take human nature into account."A new bypass (freeway to Americans) is planned for Wexford's territory, and it will cut through the habitat of some endangered species. It will also ruin an unspoiled countryside. The protesters gather, and then the vigilantes. Even then, no one expects a hostage situation until too late. Now Wexford has to rescue the hostages before they are killed one by one, including his own wife. No matter how well the police think they know human nature, they can't predict the turns of the human mind.
Absorbing tale about the proposed construction of a bypass in a town and the range of types of persons opposed to it. Several different groups, ranging from law-abiding, peaceful citizens to radical tree-spikers descend on the town. Some of them have no regular jobs and make their homes in treetops. Chief Inspector Wexford is on the side of the opponents but believes the bypass is inevitable. He doesn't plan to take any action, either personal or professional, about it. However, when his own wife goes missing, along with four other citizens, he soon sees a connection between the abduction and the "tree people".There are many suspects and none. It is like hunting for the needle in the haystack to run down the perps. The investigation involves a local taxi company and its shifty manager as well. As usual, it is the personal stories, the characters, that make the story sing. I was absorbed all the way through.
As others noted, this is not up to the usual Rendell standard, which is very high indeed. I did, however, enjoy seeing Wexford's long-suffering wife Dora acquit herself so well as a hostage.Other than that, I felt as if Rendell was just going through the motions.One good quote:"When Mrs. Peabody was young, you tidied up the bedroom and put the child into a clean nightdress before the doctor came. If anyone in authority was coming you cleaned up the whole house. Going shopping into town, you dressed up in your best. These habits die hard and it was plain that a kidnapped grandson wasn't enough to deflect Mrs. Peabody from her conditioning. She was the kind of woman who would put clean sheets on her own deathbed."
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