Another brilliantly rendered Rendellscape in which the central figure is the blond, blue-eyed psychopath next door.
They are the essence of ordinary, Rendell’s monsters—no one’s ever sure how to describe them. Eyes? Well, maybe blue, maybe gray. Hair? Blond probably. Or maybe blond fading to brown. Like Michael Cellini—the latest in a long list of unremarkable archfiends from Rendell (The Babes in the Woods, 2003, etc.)—they are meticulously designed to pass in a crowd. Michael calls himself Mix, and we meet him first in the grip of one of his two obsessions. The street where John Reginald Halliday Christie, famed serial killer, formerly lived, has been obliterated, replaced by what Mix calls up-market soullessness. Mix is outraged. Christie’s house should have been preserved as a museum, Mix as curator. Why not? Who, after all, knows more about Reggie? And then there’s Mix’s new landlady, Gwendolen Chawcer: elderly, eccentric and a snob. She views Mix as irredeemably vulgar, resents the straitened circumstances that compel her to accept him as a lodger. Perfect embodiments of class warfare, the two detest each other on sight, and this will have chilling ramifications. In the meantime, here’s Mix’s second obsession: a beautiful young model named Nerissa Nash. On his wall, there’s a poster of her, iconic. He worships at it, idealizing her and wanting her passionately. In the weird, parallel universe he’s created, she wants him with equal fervor—so that what he conceives of as wooing, she, in terror, considers stalking. And, inevitably, this, too, will have the chilling ramifications that have become Rendell’s nail-biting stock in trade.
Masterful, as usual. No one does evil better.