For fans of Rendell who admire her books, the way she turns the genre on its head, this is another brilliant example of Rendell's ingenuity. For new reader who like the conventional boundaries of the genre, this may not be quite so satisfying a book, because in Vanity Dies Hard, Rendell shatters any conventions you could care to think of.
Suffice to say, it is well-written, engaging, with a set of interesting and well-developed character. Too, here Rendell really takes her theme (i.e. vanity, what it can lead to, what it can cause, how it expresses itself in people) and runs with it! This is a marvellous exploration of vanity; she probes deeply into each of her characters with this interesting theme in mind.
This is yet another of her books that her publishers keep out of print, which is just a travesty. Until its reprinted this is a very hard little book to get hold of - so, to remedy that and spur her publishers on, email them! The more enquiries they receive, the quicker this book gets reprinted, and it must be. With Vanity Dies Hard, she turns everything we expect, everything we and the characters assume, on its head, so that we can be sure nothing in the world of Rendell is certain...And it all makes such beautiful sense. In the end, this is an incredibly clever book that will probably have you shaking your head at your own gullibility. Although it doesn't have the power of some her later books, this novel of hysteria and vanity is a unique gem from RR.