Friday, February 1, 2019

Review of From Doon With Death by Ruth Rendell (1964, John Lang)

When the prim and proper Margaret Parsons disappears Inspector Burden reassures her husband that she will in all likelihood be back by morning. However, the following day her body is found in a nearby wood. The only clues at the scene is a tube of expensive lipstick and a burnt match. At the marital home they find a set of rare books inscribed from a secret lover called 'Doon'. The books date back to when the victim was a local school girl before she moved to London. It seems that her recent move back to the village might have led to a rekindling of the relationship. But who is the mysterious Doon? Chief Inspector Wexford marshals his team and starts to investigate, though their pursuit is hampered by unwilling witnesses.

From Doon With Death is the first book in the Chief Inspector Wexford series that eventually ran to 24 instalments between 1964 and 2013. I’m surmising that the series must be locked pretty much in the time period since Wexford was 52 in 1964. The story is a straight-up police procedural plotting the investigation into the death of a dowdy thirty year old woman. The story sticks to the case, with little elaboration of the policeman’s lives, and might be considered a novella by contemporary standards given my version only ran to 183 pages. The voice is engaging, with Rendell quickly painting a scene and giving a good sense of the characters. The plot is intriguing, but is linear with a handful of potential suspects that are eliminated in turn, and it kind of runs out of steam a little at the end with an unsurprising twist and a bit of a flat denouement. Nonetheless, a nice, tight whodunit.

No comments: