This is still a fine, engaging mystery, but to be honest Put on By Cunning does lack the special little ingredient that marks out Rendell's best Wexford stories. Wexford himself doesn't seem quite as sharp, not quite such a presence, and there is nothing in this book that really makes it stand out as unique among her work, although as I say it is still a fine enough mystery and better than most books on the market today. I certainly don't think it could be much longer than it is (which is not something you could say of msot of her work - most of them beg to be lengthier, and the reader desperately wishes they were so, to prolong the experience. Wisely, though, Rendell keeps them at the length which is necessary) as it is not as hugely interesting as some of her books.
It tells the story of the investigation into the death of renowned flautist Sir Manuel Camargue, who is found dead in a snow-drift having ventured outside his house during the night. At first it seems a straightforward case of death by misadventure; a nice easy case for Wexford to tie up. However, wexford has his niggling doubts, which are strengthened by the return of Camargue's estranged daughter, now his heiress, after a considerable absence of 19 years.
As I say, Put on By Cunning is a fine enough novel by any standard, but just not quite as engaging or special or interesting as Rendell's novels usually are. Certainly not the one to start with. This probably requires an already healthy appreciation of the series.