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A Guilty Thing Surprised (Wexford) Hardcover – 30 Sep 1987

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Hutchinson; Re-issue edition (30 Sept. 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091709407
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091709402
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.5 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 196,947 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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'; and a Gold Dagger award for Live Flesh in 1986. She was also the winner of the 1990 Sunday Times Literary award, as well as the Crime Writers' Association Cartier Diamond Dagger. In 1996 she was awarded the CBE and in 1997 became a Life Peer.

Product Description


"One of the best novelists writing today" (P.D. James)

"Ruth Rendell has quite simply transformed the genre of crime writing. She displays her peerless skill in blending the mundane, commonplace aspects of life with the potent murky impulses of desire and greed, obsession and fear" (Sunday Times)

"Rendell never fails to come up trumps, and her millions of admirers will eagerly consume this offering as they have all the others." (The Irish Times)

"A firm grasp of social concerns ensure that her novels are reflective of our own times, as well as hugely absorbing." (Louise Welsh The Times)

"This is Rendell on cracking form, with the entire accoutrements one expects from her." (The Good Book Guide) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

The fifth book in the bestselling Detective Chief Inspector Wexford series. Perfect for both collectors and new fans of award-winning crime novelist Ruth Rendell, who has written classic detective fiction and gripping psychological thrillers including End in Tears and Thirteen Steps Down.

Even the dead have something to hide...

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Mme Linda Sansome on 23 Sept. 2004
Format: Paperback
This is an early Detective Chief Inspector Wexford book - published in 1970. The fascination for me, was to discover the start of that strong relationship he has with Detective Inspector Mike Burden - his now long-time sidekick. The story now appears slightly old-fashioned, in it's concept of 'Rich man in the castle, poor man at the gate', but is nonetheless a good, strong mystery.
Elizabeth Nightingale - the rich man's wife - is found murdered - the usual suspects abound - the seemingly uxurious husband, the disgruntled gardener - but we are in Ruth Rendell country, and nothing is ever quite what it seems!
The author seems to be able to ally the normal problems that the main protagonists deal with and the same sort of problem, spiraling out of control in the hands of the deeply disturbed. Vintage Ruth Rendell!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Veronica VINE VOICE on 18 Feb. 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I don’t think this is one of Rendell’s best Wexford novels but it does have a good plot, a diverse cast of characters and some thought-provoking material. If you enjoy Wexford novels then you’ll be missing out if you don’t read this one eventually, but it isn’t one of my favourites. The best part of the book was the ending, which I found to be very surprising and shocking.
This time Wexford is investigating the murder of Elizabeth Nightingale, living a dull, well-off life in the country with her husband Quentin. Their marriage is completely passionless and sexless, but someone reacts violently enough to Elizabeth to murder her on one of her evening walks in the forest. Then along come Detectives Wexford and Burden to crack the case and drag up the psychology behind the characters.
Perhaps one of the reasons why I’m not raving about this novel is because the type of characters shown in it are my least favourite – a wealthy upper class couple, their servants and wealthy, upper class friends. I much prefer a detective novel that focuses on normal people rather than the Master and Mistress of the house and their stereotypical rough and uneducated working class servants. This certainly isn’t a side of England that I recognise anymore and Rendell’s newer Wexford novels reflect this, tending to focus on all different kinds of people in the social scale without being stereotypical. One of my favourite characters was Sean Lovell, whose thwarted ambitions to become a singer were strangely touching, particularly when Wexford overhears him pretending to be a popstar in his shed (we’ve all done it, haven’t we? :-) )
The novel also looks at what it means to be a woman in 1970s Britain.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The early Wexford novels are always fun because they give such an excellent snapshot of the time when they were written. English village life in the late sixties is nicely documented here from the upper middle class gentry (still desperately clinging on to servants) to the boys' schools still teaching Latin and Greek to the forelock tugging working classes. Elizabeth Nightingale is beaten to death on a windy summers night near her posh home. Was it her ineffectual husband? Her extravagantly strange brother? Her awkward sister-in-law? Or even the lovelorn local boy with daydream ambitions? 'Guilty Thing' is a good, average and fairly typical murder mystery in the Agatha Christie vein. Its perfectly decent but not terribly exciting. The characters are all fairly stock subjects and there are some astonishing stereotypes, perhaps especially the Dutch au-pair. Personally, despite being a short novel, I also think it goes on a bit too long. The whole blackmail subplot is really unnecessary and I suspect most readers stand a good chance at guessing the identity of the murderer long before that kicks in. Its also unusual for Rendell to introduce a character such as Lionel Marriott whose sole purpose is to provide lengthy screeds of back story because she could, presumably, not think of another way to give us that information. This is one of the Wexfords that deals with a potentially shocking subject but, in the event, it isn't very shocking at all. All Rendell novels are enjoyable but, for me, this is not one of her best.
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By Mike_T on 17 Feb. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
The characters of Wexford and Burden took some time to develop, with earlier books having Wexford almost as a shadow character and Burden as the main protagonist. This book really forms a bridge to the characterization and relationship that is to follow. For that reason it holds some interest, but the plot line is incredibly weak, and the supporting cast stereo-typed in the worst possible way. Early Rendell works tend to fall between wanting to be classic who-dunnits and the psychological examination of crime (a la P D James). In the latter Rendell falls far short of James' skill (even if she herself grew tiresome with her later works) and does not provide enough detail to 'confuse' the reader to warrant any sort of comparison with a Sayers or a Christie. On both counts the book fails, but we know she can do better, so if this is your introduction andyouvare as disappointed as I, then try one of the later stories.
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By Allan DB on 12 April 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I returned to crime fiction in the 1980s, in my 30s, after a long period away. I had read Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes when I was much younger but it was PD James and Ruth Rendell who rekindled my interest in this genre. In this book beautiful Elizabeth Nightingale, a popular, wealthy woman is found murdered near her home. In solving the crime Wexford, Burden and the readers meet interesting, different but well-drawn characters in beautifully described settings, high and low. As in her first novel the author gives clues in a literary fashion, which I never pick up because of my lack of knowledge of English literature, I'm ashamed to say. The stars of this novel are the wonderful old gossip, Lionel, and William Wordsworth. I am beginning to think that Burden is there for comic relief - not my favourite.
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