Books by Ruth Rendell

Ruth Rendell has won many awards, including the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger for 1976’s best crime novel with A Demon in My View; a second Edgar in 1984 from the Mystery Writers of America for the best short story, The New Girl Friend; a Gold Da


NO MAN'S NIGHTINGALE by Ruth Rendell
MYSTERY & CRIME
Released: Nov. 5, 2013

"The insistence on plumbing the past makes this sedate, quirky whodunit read like an uneven collaboration between Rendell and her doomy alter ego Barbara Vine (The Child's Child, 2012, etc.)."
Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford (The Vault, 2011, etc.) may have retired from the Kingsmarkham Police, but murder keeps finding him, this time by invading his own neighborhood. Read full book review >
THE ST. ZITA SOCIETY by Ruth Rendell
Released: Aug. 14, 2012

Rendell's 62nd novel is a highly characteristic anatomy of the many varieties of servitude—some stifling, some nurturing, some murderous—along posh Hexam Place, Knightsbridge. Read full book review >
THE VAULT by Ruth Rendell
MYSTERY & CRIME
Released: Sept. 1, 2011

"Though this sequel doesn't pack the punch of the earlier novel, which never seemed in need of a sequel, it's an undoubted tour de force likely to offer enjoyment both to readers with long memories and to those approaching it as a stand-alone."
Ex-Chief Inspector Wexford returns from retirement to solve a most unlikely case: the mystery of who killed the three people whose corpses were last seen at the bottom of a coal hole in A Sight for Sore Eyes (1999). Read full book review >
TIGERLILY'S ORCHIDS by Ruth Rendell
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: June 14, 2011

"A tragicomedy that follows very much the same formula as Portobello (2010). No new ground is broken, but fans will be pleased."
An ill-assorted group of neighbors, enough false notes to work corrosive effects and enough time for the whole bunch of them to stew until done, or done in. Read full book review >
PORTOBELLO by Ruth Rendell
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 1, 2010

"The tectonic shifts that bring the characters together and tear them apart lack the inevitability of Rendell's most compelling exercises in the sociology of doom (The Water's Lovely, 2007, etc.). No wonder she relents and allows her characters something like a happy ending."
What ought to be welcome news—the chance discovery of £115 dropped by a stricken passerby—is the catalyst that brings together another memorably ill-assorted crowd of neurotics, misfits and criminals bent on mischief. Read full book review >
THE MONSTER IN THE BOX by Ruth Rendell
MYSTERY & CRIME
Released: Oct. 1, 2009

"A less impassioned, more valedictory version of Simisola (1995) with a bonus: more information about Wexford's early years than his celebrated creator has ever shared."
Chief Inspector Wexford's 22nd case returns to the late 1990s—and revisits much older territory as well—in tracing his relationship with a respectable citizen he's certain is a murderer. Read full book review >
NOT IN THE FLESH by Ruth Rendell
MYSTERY & CRIME
Released: June 10, 2008

"Rich, tangled and as sharply observed as ever."
Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford and his Kingsmarkham colleagues (End in Tears, 2005, etc.) deal with not one but two bodies of men whose relatives long ago gave up hope of ever hearing from them again. Read full book review >
THE WATER’S LOVELY by Ruth Rendell
MYSTERY & CRIME
Released: July 1, 2007

"Despite some unlikely coincidences and a rushed and muted ending, one of the most deeply pleasurable thrillers from the genre's leading practitioner."
The legacy of a violent death 12 years ago has even creepier resonances for a misfit London family. Read full book review >
END IN TEARS by Ruth Rendell
MYSTERY & CRIME
Released: July 25, 2006

"Average for Rendell's distinguished list of whodunits, which makes it just a whisker below state of the art."
Inspector Reginald Wexford's 20th case, and Rendell's 64th volume, asks who murdered a pair of Kingsmarkham teens no better than they should have been. Read full book review >
THIRTEEN STEPS DOWN by Ruth Rendell
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 1, 2005

"Masterful, as usual. No one does evil better."
Another brilliantly rendered Rendellscape in which the central figure is the blond, blue-eyed psychopath next door. Read full book review >
THE BABES IN THE WOOD by Ruth Rendell
MYSTERY & CRIME
Released: Oct. 21, 2003

"Sex, drugs, religious mania, dysfunctional families—and not even Wexford's own domestic circle is safe this time."
Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford's stellar 19th case hinges on the disappearance of a pair of teenagers and their babysitter. Read full book review >
ADAM AND EVE AND PINCH ME by Ruth Rendell
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Feb. 12, 2002

Compulsive cleaner Araminta Knox is convinced she's being haunted by the ghost of her late fiancé Jock Lewis, even though nobody but her believes he really died in that Paddington train wreck. Read full book review >

PIRANHA TO SCURFY by Ruth Rendell
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Jan. 30, 2001

Although Rendell's six previous collections have showcased a remarkable talent for evoking suspense in just a few pregnant pages, the nine tales here are successful in direct proportion to their length. Read full book review >

HARM DONE by Ruth Rendell
MYSTERY & CRIME
Released: Nov. 3, 1999

Kingsmarkham, where Chief Inspector Wexford labors in the interests of law and order, is one of those small English towns that's picture-postcard placid on the surface, a cauldron underneath. Read full book review >

A SIGHT FOR SORE EYES by Ruth Rendell
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: March 17, 1999

Rendell's 46th (Road Rage, 1997, etc.) is a modern-day fairy tale—Margaret Yorke meets Fay Weldon—that shows the dark side of lovers' reckless pursuit of their objects of beauty. Read full book review >

ROAD RAGE by Ruth Rendell
MYSTERY & CRIME
Released: Sept. 1, 1997

"EWSLUGp1995."
Rendell's evolution from the unnervingly focused analyst of plausible psychoses to the more outward chronicler who uses crime to diagnose the ills of contemporary Britain—one of the glories of today's mystery fiction—continues in a masterful tale of eco-terrorism that chills Chief Inspector Wexford as none of his earlier cases have. Read full book review >
THE KEYS TO THE STREET by Ruth Rendell
THRILLERS
Released: Sept. 1, 1996

"1995), this poignant tale shows the author at her most extroverted: Under her tireless probing, every social class that Regent's Park brings together turns out to be equally pathological."
A delicate London flower plucks up the courage to walk out on her abusive lover—and into a vintage Rendell nightmare. Read full book review >
BLOOD LINES by Ruth Rendell
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: June 1, 1996

"All told, these 11 stories remind you that the indefatigable Rendell is the most versatile, as well as the most penetrating, of contemporary suspense writers."
The keynote in the shorter entries here—some only a few pages long—is a frantic extroversion as the author eyes several disintegrating marriages and imagines her way into the minds of a compulsive shopper, a professional house-sitter, an unusually patient poisoner, and Dickens's Miss Havisham (there's also an oddly perfunctory Browning pastiche). Read full book review >
Released: March 1, 1996

"A true rarity—a commonplace book about the most shocking act of all."
You wouldn't expect an ordinary anthology from Ruth Rendell, but this little book of excerpts has no precedent in the field of crime writing. Read full book review >
SIMISOLA by Ruth Rendell
MYSTERY & CRIME
Released: Sept. 13, 1995

"Though the patient, endless windup is a letdown, Wexford's 16th case succeeds, as very few detective stories do, in creating a world that rings true from the opening question to the final deadly blow."
Having taken Chief Inspector Reg Wexford (Kissing the Gunner's Daughter, 1992, etc.) from China to California, Rendell now plunges him into the most exotic setting of all: the Thatcherite underside of his own village of Kingsmarkham. Read full book review >
THE CROCODILE BIRD by Ruth Rendell
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 6, 1993

"And if this sedate, chilling family portrait isn't in the same class as A Judgment in Stone or Make Death Love Me, well, what is?"
A sheltered girl spins a tale of her involvement with her mother in a years-old series of killings—in this meditative Arabian Nights of murder-in-retrospect reminiscent of Rendell's Barbara Vine byline. Read full book review >
KISSING THE GUNNER'S DAUGHTER by Ruth Rendell
MYSTERY & CRIME
Released: June 1, 1992

"The story marks a masterful return to form for the supreme living exponent of the English detective story."
Rendell's last few books haven't been up to her extraordinarily high standard, but Chief Inspector Wexford's first appearance since The Veiled One (1988) is cause for celebration. Read full book review >
THE COPPER PEACOCK by Ruth Rendell
MYSTERY & CRIME
Released: Oct. 1, 1991

"Lesser work from a major talent; readable but unpersuasive."
Nine new short stories from the prolific, impressive Rendell—but an underpar batch this time, with no top-notch entries and quite a few clinkers. Read full book review >
GOING WRONG by Ruth Rendell
Released: Sept. 17, 1990

"Wexford detective series."
"Going wrong" indeed: Rendell's latest variation on a favorite theme—psychotically obsessive love—is surprisingly one-dimensional and padded out, without the sharp twists or convincing peril of her best (or even second-best) work. Read full book review >
THE VEILED ONE by Ruth Rendell
Released: Sept. 7, 1988

Another somber yet taut, darkly psychological investigation in suburbia for Inspector Wexford—though this time sidekick Mike Burden, still a tad naive, shoulders most of the responsibility (and provides much of the emotional interest). Mrs. Gwen Robson, a 60-ish housewife with an arthritic husband, is found dead—via nasty garrote, apparently—in the parking garage of a shopping mall. Read full book review >
COLLECTED STORIES by Ruth Rendell
Released: May 2, 1988

"Delightful."
This "first-ever omnibus of [Rendell's] shorter fiction" brings together her first four story-collections—The Fallen Curtain, Means of Evil, The Fever Tree, and The New Girl Friend. Read full book review >
TALKING TO STRANGE MEN by Ruth Rendell
Released: Oct. 5, 1987

"Finally, then, despite fine atmosphere, dozens of clever touches, and considerable charm in the schoolboy-espionage, this is one of Rendell's least effective constructions: too much contrivance, too much clinical psychology, too little genuine passion or peril."
Rendell's favorite psycho-suspense technique—two separate plots that crisscross ironically, often fatally—resurfaces in this new, intriguing, yet very disappointing thriller: a long, low-key tease that never really rewards the reader's trust and patience. Read full book review >
HEARTSTONES by Ruth Rendell
Released: June 3, 1987

"So, though Rendell's gift for lean, atmospheric storytelling is never in doubt through this intense miniature, it has neither the riveting conviction of her stories nor the rich, ironic patterning of her best psycho-suspense novels."
Although Rendell may well be the greatest living writer of suspense short-stories (Means of Evil, The Fever Tree, and two other collections), this 80-page tale—an inaugural entry in the "Harper Short Novel Series" (see Weldon, below)—is an off-kilter, uncharacteristically clumsy effort, with the author's notable talent for creepy psychopathology forced into an obvious, gimmicky framework. Read full book review >
LIVE FLESH by Ruth Rendell
Released: Sept. 2, 1986

"And, with no one else to care about (David and Clare are just sketches), the reader is stuck with Victor for the duration: claustrophobic, ultimately dispiriting company, despite Rendell's often-effective attempts to humanize a psycho-criminal profile."
When Rendell goes all out for psychopathology rather than conventional suspense, the results can sometimes truly be riveting—as in the case of A Judgement in Stone. Read full book review >
AN UNKINDNESS OF RAVENS by Ruth Rendell
Released: Sept. 3, 1985

"On the other hand, the page-by-page storytelling—wry, superbly paced, full of arresting character-details—is still unsurpassed in the mystery field."
Rendell's non-detective thrillers sometimes become a bit excessive in their layers of psychopathology; her Inspector Wexford cases are usually more restrained. Read full book review >
THE KILLING DOLL by Ruth Rendell
Released: May 29, 1984

Rendell returns to her favorite psychological-suspense device here: two separate story-lines that will eventually overlap—with fatal results. Read full book review >
THE TREE OF HANDS by Ruth Rendell
Released: March 6, 1984

"But much of this warm yet chilling tale offers Rendell at her very best: the crisply textured characters, the modern-London atmosphere, the finely controlled mixture of creepiness and pathos—and the nearly-unrivaled gift for plain, beguiling storytelling."
Several of the favorite Rendell themes—madness, suffocating family ties, real estate, ironically overlapping crimes—come together in this firmly intriguing (if ultimately half-satisfying) anatomy of a child-kidnapping. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 12, 1983

"Less tight and polished than Death Notes, with a ho-hum fadeout—but a disarming, fairly irresistible blend of mini-puzzles, solid detection, splendid travel writing, and Wexford charm."
Like the last Inspector Wexford mystery, Death Notes, this new Render novel is less an earnest mystery-story (like early Wexford) than a sly, teasing entertainment—with twists galore, subtly winking salutes to A. Christie, and an improvisatory feel that never slips over into archness or parody. Read full book review >
MASTER OF THE MOOR by Ruth Rendell
Released: Sept. 13, 1982

"A Judgement in Stone (or even The Lake of Darkness); and it would be a pity if newcomers to Rendell got their first impression of her from this distinctly under-par effort."
It happened with Dick Francis, Ross Macdonald, and many others: a superb, underrated suspense writer finally achieves some wider recognition. . . just when he or she is producing weaker work. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 1982

"But for anyone who has enjoyed the unsettling irony and horror of such Rendell novels as A Judgement in Stone, these are fine examples of restrained, sophisticated, even whimsical terror—with echoes of Saki as well as Christie."
Of the major contemporary mystery/crime writers, only Rendell—like Agatha Christie before her—is as impressive with short-stories as with novels: this third collection reaffirms her creepy skills (on shaky display in the recent Master of the Moor) for leanly convincing psychopathology, the blackest of black comedy, dreadful twists, and marital tensions of a particularly lethal nature. Read full book review >
DEATH NOTES by Ruth Rendell
Released: Sept. 14, 1981

"And though it's no news that Rendell can be scary, clever, sardonic, and even warmly engaging (the Wexford family remains a likable crew), here she's all that and genuinely witty as well—in another fiendishly readable winner from an awesomely versatile talent."
P. D. James gets the headlines, but it is becoming increasingly clear, with one superb book after another (A Judgement in Stone, A Sleeping Life, Make Death Love Me), that Ruth Rendell is the best all-around mystery/crime writer in the world today. Read full book review >
THE LAKE OF DARKNESS by Ruth Rendell
Released: July 25, 1980

"But Rendell (whose uncharacteristic sloppiness here includes such gaucheries as "paranoidly") has made only a half-successful chiller out of her inspired plot notions this time around, a wily tale with middling credibility and minimal emotional grab."
As in the superb Make Death Love Me (1979), Britain's queen of dark irony is again doing nice tricks with parallel, interlocking plots—but here, though Rendell is never less than swiftly readable, the fabrication doesn't quite soar: the characters are an unlikable crew; the balance between the two halves of the story is lopsided; and, most crucially, the reliance on contrivance or coincidence (which almost marred Make Death Love Me) pretty near shatters the narrative spell. Read full book review >
MAKE DEATH LOVE ME by Ruth Rendell
Released: July 27, 1979

"A can't-stop-reading, humanized melodrama that could also be, in the right hands, the makings of a gem of a movie."
Rendell just keeps getting better and better. A Judgment in Stone (1977) was a tour de force in her crime-from-the-criminal-point-of-view mode. A Sleeping Life (1978) brought back Inspector Wexford at his best. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 4, 1979

"Second-string Rendell, then—which means, by any other standards, perfectly solid and tremendously intelligent, invisibly stylish work."
Five Inspector Wexford stories that show Rendell at her least distinctive—the full-length Wexfords and non-Wexford novels and stories are all superior—but Rendell never sinks below a certain, remarkably high, level. Read full book review >
A SLEEPING LIFE by Ruth Rendell
Released: Oct. 6, 1978

"But only P. D. James can rival Rendell for total, no-seams-showing command of the classic genre, and true mystery fans, unlike literary critics, would probably give Rendell extra points for the un-literary economy and ease of her irresistible, nonstop prose."
When Rendell writes crime-from-the-criminal-point-of-view, she is gripping and creepy. Read full book review >
A JUDGEMENT IN STONE by Ruth Rendell
Released: Feb. 3, 1977

"The reigning chronicler of crime-from-the-criminal-point-of-view has struck again, with somewhat less elegance than usual but with more sheer clout: weak of heart, beware."
Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write." Read full book review >
THE FACE OF TRESPASS by Ruth Rendell
Released: April 5, 1974

"As good a book as she's done and it could hardly be better."
In case you've forgotten, Ruth Rendell is easily the equivalent of Patricia Highsmith — a belle dame sans merci who can be amusing and unpleasant at the same time and there's no telling what will happen to poor Gray Lanceton, whose finances have totally collapsed along with his affair with a young married woman who would have liked him to dispose of her husband. Read full book review >
SOME LIE AND SOME DIE by Ruth Rendell
Released: Nov. 9, 1973

"Quite quiet, even for rustic England."
Ruth Rendell, pleasanter than most, and her Inspector Wexford, nicer than most, and neither working with very much when a girl's body is found in a quarry after a Woodstock-type festival while a red dress proves to be the murder instrument. Read full book review >
MURDER BEING ONCE DONE by Ruth Rendell
Released: Nov. 3, 1972

"In a pleasant, literate fashion."
Wexford, a Surrey policeman (you'll like him), chooses to take a holiday in London following a thrombosis where he gets well quickly submerging himself in the murder of a girl called Loveday Morgan, found in a cemetery vault. Read full book review >
NO MORE DYING THEN by Ruth Rendell
Released: April 7, 1972

"Miss Rendell's solution is something of a stretcher but up until then it affords exemplary entertainment."
Miss Rendell is a consistently pleasurable performer who involves you in her most convincing characters as much as the crime. . . in fact three of them all dealing with the deaths and disappearances of youngsters — one of longer standing occurrence. Read full book review >
ONE ACROSS, TWO DOWN by Ruth Rendell
Released: Aug. 6, 1971

"Nattering home truths and unpleasant consequences processed with close conviction."
With a little of the charm in which he is singularly lacking, Stanley might be one of Patricia Highsmith's murderers and his story is just as full of convertible and unexpected reverses. Read full book review >
THE SECRET HOUSE OF DEATH by Ruth Rendell
Released: July 25, 1969

"British, this ends with a reverse English which should guarantee some surprise along with the sympathetic presentation of people you know, or might have known."
The domestic dereliction of Louise North with sales representative Bernard Heller ends bang-bang in their death and their neighbor, Susan Townsend (who had been deserted by her husband for another woman) is left to comfort husband Bob North, helpless and humiliated. Read full book review >
WOLF TO THE SLAUGHTER by Ruth Rendell
Released: May 3, 1968

"It is also by no means as exclusively feminine as her earlier books."
A definitely superior British quasi-procedural story in which three members of the police force attempt to find mod painter Margolis' sister Ann who seems to have disappeared while an anonymous letter claims she has been murdered. Read full book review >
A NEW LEASE OF DEATH by Ruth Rendell
Released: May 19, 1967

"But it's far-fetched even for the ladies who will probably be somewhat shocked by the Reverend's mid-stream affair."
The respectable Rev. Read full book review >
IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH by Ruth Rendell
Released: June 15, 1966

"It's for the ladies who will be taken as well as taken in but they won't mind since it's a very readable form of victimization."
Alice, who just has no looks at all but money, is lucky enough to have had a younger, attractive man fall in love with her and she's never wondered about Andrew at all—until her friend, Nesta, disappears from an address unknown, and she begins to have violent toxic seizures attended by doubts (Nesta and Andrew? Read full book review >
TO FEAR A PAINTED DEVIL by Ruth Rendell
Released: Aug. 6, 1965

"A natty, chatty English countryside affair, quite good of its kind."
This is a comfortable, old-fashioned novel of suspense bearing the classic puzzler symbol of the Crime Club series. Read full book review >