MASTER OF THE MOOR by Ruth Rendell


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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. And now that seems to be the case with Ruth Rendell: this new non-detective, psycho-crime novel is a book club selection--but it's far less impressive than Rendell's recent work in either detection (Death Notes, A Sleeping Life) or crime (Make Death Love Me, A Judgement in Stone). Someone is killing young blonde women on the moors near Hilderbridge. And all evidence points the reader to central character Stephen Walby, 30--an obviously disturbed fellow who finds the first body. After all, Stephen is puritanical, impotent (though wed to nice Lyn), obsessed with the moor (he believes himself to be the illegitimate grandson of a famed moor novelist), and was long ago deserted by a blonde mother; also, he secretly locates the killer's lair--in a cave on the moor. Is Stephen himself the schizoid killer, then? Or are there two psychos wandering around the moor? Plus--things get even more complicated when Stephen clearly does kill blonde wife Lyn (who's been understandably unfaithful) and tries to pass off the murder as one of the moor killings. . . until Lyn then turns up alive (!). How can this be? Well, Rendell uses one of the creakiest of ancient, implausible plot-twists to explain Lyn's survival. And the denouement--when Stephen comes face to face with the killer in the cave-lair--will surprise no reasonably alert reader. So, despite Rendell's ever-sharp prose and the effective moor/village atmosphere, this is thin, contrived psycho-crime storytelling--without the ironic inventiveness or the psychological conviction of 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.
Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 1982
ISBN: 0345341473
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1982


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