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Come back, Inspector Wexford

Douglas Johnson, 7 March 1985

The Killing Doll 
by Ruth Rendell.
Hutchinson/Arrow, 237 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 09 155480 2
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The Tree of Hands 
by Ruth Rendell.
Hutchinson, 269 pp., £8.50, October 1984, 0 09 158680 1
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... We still have a Queen of Crime. For nearly twenty years Ruth Rendell has been hailed as the successor to Sayers, Christie, Marsh and Allingham, perpetuating the old question of why it is that there should be a particularly feminine talent for detective fiction. Her Chief Inspector, Wexford by name, has joined the ranks of legendary police heroes, and although he is Sussex-based he can occasionally, via a nephew, call upon the resources of Scotland Yard ...

Open that window, Miss Menzies

Patricia Craig, 7 August 1986

A Taste for Death 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 454 pp., £9.95, June 1986, 0 571 13799 7
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A Dark-Adapted Eye 
by Barbara Vine.
Viking, 300 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 670 80976 4
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Dead Men’s Morris 
by Gladys Mitchell.
Joseph, 247 pp., £9.95, April 1986, 0 7181 2553 3
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Laurels are poison 
by Gladys Mitchell.
Hogarth, 237 pp., £2.95, June 1986, 0 7012 1010 9
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Dido and Pa 
by Joan Aiken.
Cape, 251 pp., £7.95, June 1986, 0 224 02364 0
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... discovered in the vestry of a Paddington church. This is a splendid opening for a detective novel. Ruth Rendell likewise, under her new name of Barbara Vine, kicks off in striking style: ‘On the morning Vera died I woke up very early.’ Vera Hillyard, we learn within a line or two, is scheduled to die by hanging at the usual hour of eight in the ...

How criminals think

John Lanchester, 13 September 1990

Love and Death on Long Island 
by Gilbert Adair.
Heinemann, 138 pp., £10.95, July 1990, 9780434006229
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Going wrong 
by Ruth Rendell.
Hutchinson, 250 pp., £12.99, September 1990, 0 09 174300 1
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The Burden of Proof 
by Scott Turow.
Bloomsbury, 515 pp., £13.99, August 1990, 0 7475 0673 6
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Crucible of Fools 
by M.S. Power.
Hamish Hamilton, 165 pp., £12.99, August 1990, 0 241 13006 9
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... sketched, and is – Patricia Highsmith excepted – almost invariably told rather than shown. Ruth Rendell’s great strength as a practitioner of the two genres has been her genuine interest in the psychology of the perpetrators of crime, an interest in how criminals think and in what it must feel like to be one. She takes the reader into the areas ...

Right-ons

Jenny Turner, 24 October 1991

Gaudi Afternoon 
by Barbara Wilson.
Virago, 172 pp., £4.99, August 1991, 1 85381 264 1
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The players come again 
by Amanda Cross.
Virago, 229 pp., £12.99, August 1991, 1 85381 306 0
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Poetic Justice 
by Amanda Cross.
Virago, 176 pp., £4.99, August 1991, 1 85381 025 8
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Birth Marks 
by Sarah Dunant.
Joseph, 230 pp., £13.99, April 1991, 0 7181 3511 3
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Burn Marks 
by Sara Paretsky.
Virago, 340 pp., £4.99, April 1991, 9781853812798
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Deep Sleep 
by Frances Fyfield.
Heinemann, 198 pp., £13.99, September 1991, 0 434 27426 7
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... of a locality, an institution, a person, writers as apparently different as Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell and Martin Amis go for atmosphere, seizing on simple strong images, then orchestrating and art-directing them until they pervade every aspect of a novel like a smell (the mixed metaphors of this sentence perfectly express the sensory confusion ...

Blights

Patricia Craig, 23 April 1987

A Darkness in the Eye 
by M.S. Power.
Heinemann, 212 pp., £10.95, April 1987, 0 434 59961 1
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The Stars at Noon 
by Denis Johnson.
Faber, 181 pp., £9.95, March 1987, 0 571 14607 4
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Like Birds in the Wilderness 
by Agnes Owens.
Fourth Estate, 138 pp., £9.95, March 1987, 0 947795 51 0
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Fool’s Sanctuary 
by Jennifer Johnston.
Hamish Hamilton, 132 pp., £8.95, April 1987, 0 241 12035 7
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A Fatal Inversion 
by Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell).
Viking, 317 pp., £10.95, March 1987, 0 670 80977 2
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Sisters of the Road 
by Barbara Wilson.
Women’s Press, 202 pp., £3.95, March 1987, 0 7043 4073 9
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The price you pay 
by Hannah Wakefield.
Women’s Press, 245 pp., £4.95, March 1987, 0 7043 4072 0
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... in being written by an author susceptible to the glamour in ill-fated associations. Barbara Vine, Ruth Rendell’s alter ego, has written her second enthralling novel: A Fatal Inversion is about the fatal convergence of some more or less unlikeable young people, during the sweltering summer of 1976. The novel opens, in the present, with an episode ...

Wasps and all

Philip Horne, 8 December 1988

A Chinese Summer 
by Mark Illis.
Bloomsbury, 135 pp., £11.95, October 1988, 0 7475 0257 9
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Three Uneasy Pieces 
by Patrick White.
Cape, 59 pp., £7.95, October 1988, 0 224 02594 5
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The Captain and the Enemy 
by Graham Greene.
Reinhardt, 189 pp., £10.95, September 1988, 1 871061 05 9
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View of Dawn in the Tropics 
by G. Cabrera Infante, translated by Suzanne Jill Levine.
Faber, 163 pp., £10.95, September 1988, 0 571 15186 8
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The House of Stairs 
by Barbara Vine.
Viking, 282 pp., £11.95, September 1988, 0 670 82414 3
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... half-normalised in The House of Stairs by Barbara Vine (the pseudonym of the crime writer Ruth Rendell), whose narrator Elizabeth Vetch has in the 1980s to deal with a friend, Bell Sanger, who has served a ‘life sentence’ for a late Sixties murder and come out again. Murderers used to be hanged. Now they are set free and come back to live ...

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