on 3 February 2012
A classic, elegantly written series, spoiled by the cheapness of Arrow Books and their disgracefully bad proof-reading. The Wexford books are a witty puzzle and I'm enjoying re-discovering them after many years; they are a refreshing antidote to the under-plotted overly sadistic work of the Scandinavian gorefest writers. Shame that the publishers can't read and won't accept the extent to which typos spoil the enjoyment of reading.
Margaret Parsons is dead. She appeared to lead a very dull life. She had been a "good" woman. Religious, old-fashioned, and respectable, her life had been as spotless and ordinary as her home, as unexciting and dependable as her marriage.
However, it was not because of her life that Chief Inspector Wexford got involved, but her death... How is it possible that a woman who had led such a quiet, respectable, unspectacular life could have met such a death of passion and violence? To Wexford, it simply does not make sense, until he begins to slowly uncover the layers of Margaret Parsons' real life...
This, the first Wexford novel and Rendell's debut in the world of the published writer, is a remarkable crime novel, for several reasons. Firstly, and most importantly of course, it is an excellent mystery; a brilliant puzzle, worthy of Agatha Christie. The investigation twists and turns down unexpected paths, and the diligent Inspector Wexford follows each clue faithfully, until the entirely satisfying and surprising solution. However, unlike Christie, Rendell's mystery is more rounded. It is more socially conscious (although that's not at al to say that some of Christie's weren't; she was excellent at the divide between the upper- and lower-classes), the characters are more real, more developed, more human and thus more interesting. The writing is also better; more compelling, with greater clarity; precision.
"From Doon With Death" is one of the most important debuts of all time. Not just because it marked the future coming of a great novelist, but because it displayed a CURRENTLY great novelist who has, over the years, simply ascended to pinnacles of even greater excellence and quality. It is a great novel from a novelist who got even better. It has also stood the test of time remarkably. The themes it covers are still very relevant today, and in some areas this book is even very much ahead of its time. Another thing to be noted is that, even though almost 20 other Wexford novels have appeared since, it is still one of the very strongest, and also unique in the series. Rendell has never repeated herself, and over the course of 50+ books, that's rather amazing.
This is an absolutely wonderful debut novel, and a brilliant mystery as well. It comes as highly recommended as all her work.
on 5 March 2012
This book was my first foray into this genre - I was looking for a break from my normal genres of historical fiction and adventure. I found the book approachable but not entirely motivating. I guess I will have to try another Inspector Wexford mystery before making a decision as to whether to give up this flutter with the genre. As with other reviewers, I did find the kindle version's errors very distracting, if occasionally a source of light entertainment when I decoded what the sentence was actually meant to be saying (however if I was looking for this type of challenge in the future it might be simpler to try doing a suduko puzzle while also reading).
on 25 July 2011
I have to admit I haven't finished the book yet, I am really enjoying the story and it is well written but I am starting to get quite irritated with this version. Every chapter has at least one incorrect spelling, a complete word missing or a letter missing from a word. It feels like someone has copy typed this version from the original and never even bothered to proof read it more than once and have just run a spell check over it with no skill.
I *think* I have connected a few dots in the story - you can certainly tell this is a first novel as, unless there is going to be a sudden huge twist at the end, I am pulling together the threads of Margaret's life and seeing who Doon could possibly be. I will have to keep reading and see though.
I would highly recommend the story - perhaps try a different print edition though!
on 13 February 2000
This is the first of Ruth Rendell's books and we are thrust into the death of Margaret Parson's. All we have are the inscriptions in books from Doon, who is Doon and what is the link to Margaret? I was so pleased to come across this novel. the first in the series of Wexford novels. This book will have you wondering who is Doon ? and you won't know till the final pages. A very good first novel and as we know the rest is history.
on 12 October 2014
Just reread this. It is atmospheric - you can see the houses where the characters live. Murder victim Margaret Parsons lives in a largish Victorian house that has not been "modernised" - it looks unchanged for 50 years. There is parquet-effect lino on the floor and a brass letter rack on the wall. This is in contrast to her two old school friends' homes: one is tasteful in a colourless, Gothic style, with tapestry hunting scenes in the large entrance hall; the other is nouveau riche, with play equipment for the children and a hammock in the garden. Clothes are also a class giveaway: Margaret wears permed hair, a cotton dress, bare legs, sandals, a cardigan and a rain hood. (This was frumpy in 1964, and she's only 30.) Nouveau riche Helen wears a lot of turquoise and royal blue (together), while tasteful Fabia prefers dark colours. We don't learn much about Wexford and Burden - they are defined more by their modernistic police station (with steel and tweed chairs). Later books became more soap opera, and we learn a bit too much about them.
One good point about this (very short) book: she is writing about people and interiors she knows. Later books sound as if they are based on research.
One thing puzzles me, though: what becomes of Dudley Drury? Why was he so frightened? Was his wife ever questioned? What had he buried in the vegetable plot? What is he hiding?
on 21 September 2015
Well I've spent the summer reading the whole Wexford series in sequence. I had never read one before, never seen them on the TV. But after Dalziel, Banks, Rebus, Martin Beck, Wallander, Perez and Vera I thought I'd give them a go, and I'm glad I did.
Weaknesses--- sometimes the plots required disbelief to be suspended ; forensics scarcely exist ; after 24 novels we don't really know many of Wexford's team, Malahyde, Vine etc ; the weaving in of the various social themes is done with varying success.
Strengths--- the depiction and development of Reg Wexford ; his professional and personal struggles ; his mixture of conservatism over most forms of so-called development and his personal liberalism. To me these do capture a certain type of English character. One of the later novels mentions A Dance to the Music of Time and there is something of that in reading this as a series. Also the delicacy of the writing is a joy.
With one exception I thought the best ones were from round about The Veiled One through to Road Rage, when RR chose (or was given) more space to develop the stories and the characterisation. The last half dozen drop off from that standard and End in Tears is a particularly weak one.
The exception is the very first, From Doon with Death. This ranks with the very best, tightly plotted and highly atmospheric. Strongly recommended.
For some reason, this first of the Wexford series has passed me by so I bought the Audible version recently. The pace is slow and measured, but the plotting Is intricate with plenty of clues and red herrings. It's a classic murder mystery, essentially a study of motivation and opportunity, filled with well drawn and quite distinct characters. Each has affectations and secrets.
I was surprised to discover the book was first published in 1964. In some ways, it seemed to sit in an earlier time where strong social attitudes and hierarchy were deeply entrenched. For example, Wexford and his sidekick are treated as Plod and his minion by the solicitor, who's higher up the social ladder. Policing then was very different and there's no racing around or reliance upon detailed forensics. The professional classes resent their dinner parties and cocktails being interrupted by a murder investigation. Wexford is almost acquiescent to demands to leave questions until a more convenient time. Attitudes were very different as was language; reference to underlings, gay countenance and taking a queer turn seem quaint.
Despite the anachronistic feel, it's an interesting tale which meanders around a number of potential suspects as motives and alibis are explored. I enjoyed it and found it a gentle and relaxing tale of truth, lies and dark secrets.
This is Ms Rendell's debut and shines brightly in the UK at a time when, it seems to me, the better novelists were ploughing the espionage furrow.
Once again we are in the 'sleepy village in the Home Counties' ie. the murder capital of Planet Earth. Yet this time, there is a modern population which doesnt consist of retired colonels and blue-rinsed, curtain twitchers.
In fact, social class is an overwhelming theme. The contrast between the 'modest semi' world of victim 'Mrs.P' and the 'posh houses' of the suspects investigated by Wexford, is painstakingly developed and a breath of fresh air.
With hindsight it is highly amusing that Ms Rendell should describe Wexford as 'the very prototype of an actor playing a top-brass policeman'; this shows amazing prescience!
There are reservations concerning the modus operandi and portrayal of a 'lyrical' Wexford who is the only person who can 'connect' with the killer. The reader also needs to remember that the this is the early 1960's and police procedures have moved on.
This is the third Rendell/Vine I have read and every time I finish with a feeling of not quite understanding how the book has got under my skin.