Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Rottweiler by Ruth Rendell

In addition to being highly regarded and greatly honored, Ruth Rendell is prolific. Because I don’t like to read books by the same author within about six months of one another, I am pretty much never caught up with what she’s doing. She has several strands in her work. My favorites are the Wexford books: these form a series of classic police procedurals with a recurring detective character, Reg Wexford. These are really brilliant. She also writes freestanding crime novels that focus on the criminal instead of on the police who are pursuing him. It is in this category that The Rottweiler falls. Finally, under the name Barbara Vine, she writes psychological thrillers that are less about outright crime, and more about aberrant behavior and its consequences; from these the police are usually completely absent.

One thing Rendell does really well is to make London and its inhabitants come alive. She has been writing about multicultural Britain since Zadie Smith was a baby. Her most sympathetic, interesting characters are often neither the criminal nor the police who track him, but instead the peripheral characters who go about their lives in the margins of these stories. The Rottweiler was no different; Rendell makes the inhabitants of the serial killer’s apartment building as compelling as the killer himself, perhaps more so.

I wouldn’t say that The Rottweiler was the best of this kind of Rendell book (that honor I would assign to The Tree of Hands). I think her solution relied a little too heavily on pop psychology, and personally I don’t get the fascination with serial killers. Nevertheless, it’s a good read, or a good listen as an audiobook.

Here is a link to a review from the Guardian.
(Book 47, 2006)


Anonymous said...

I agree with you on Rendell -- I've been reading her on and off since I was a teenager (i.e. a long time ago!) and I almost always enjoy her books.

I haven't bought this one yet, but at the weekend I did buy her latest Wexford novel, as it was on sale for £3.99 in the local bookshop. Now all I need is the time to read it.

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