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60 of 63 people found the following review helpful
on 28 September 2009
I came to this new Wexford title with some trepidation. I'd thought the last, Not in the Flesh, was pretty poor, with its shaky storyline and cringe-making subplot about female circumcision (cringe-making because of the quite condescending descriptions of the Somalian girl, not because of the procedure!).

However, I'm delighted to say that The Monster in the Box is a return to form. To be more correct, it's a return to form in some respects, something quite new in others. In what ways is it new? For a start, we go back in time to the days of Wexford's early career and the early stages of his relationship with Dora. These sections of the book are by no means boring filler: there's a particularly shocking scene in a Cornish cottage, for instance (and check out how Rendell plays with the reader's expectations with that one!). This story deals, too, with obsession, putting me in mind of some of the "straight" Rendell novels. It's also a particularly creepy book: the subject of Wexford's obsession, the monster he's trying to keep in the box, is particularly unnerving, almost a supernatural - or at least animalistic - figure.

The story is short, fast-paced, gripping, and in some ways bizarre (I enjoyed the runaway lion).

I think Rendell is better in this one on the race issues, though she's always sailed dangerously close to a condescending wind (so many of her asian characters have "noble" or "elegant" manners or profiles.)

One more point to note, and this is very strange. The novel seems to be set in the late 1990s. Can anyone explain why? I'm scratching my head about this one.

Advice for anyone disappointed by Wexford/Rendell's performance recently: give the pair another shot. This one's a really great performance.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 26 November 2010
I am a big fan of Ruth Rendell so it gives me no pleasure at all to write how much I actually disliked the Monster In the Box. It is actually so bad that it doesn't read like Rendell at all!How can such a gifted writer have created something which is both clumzy and boring, repetitive and annoying! It doesn't make any kind of sense. Do we expect Wexford to tell the story of his obsession about Targo to Burden in installments? No, we don't. Do we deserve the story to be dragged as it is, again we don't. Do we care about it one jot? Indeed we don't. But the worst part, as far as I am concerned, is Burden's wife and the young policewoman 's treatment of the Asian family. Surely there is a case for harassment in there! Reading about it was infuriating and yet I am not particularly PC myself but that some nosey parkers pretending to be open minded should go to such lengths, I couldn't take it! It made me want to scream at the writer because it was so lumpy, unbelievable, caricatural, conceited.....A dreadful book to be forgotten or disposed of...
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 9 August 2010
The idea for the book of Wexford solving a murder which happened in the past was a good one. However Miss Rendall should have stuck to the point and not go wandering off with reminiscing and getting involved in possible forced marriages.

This is a deary story, the only bit of light was the lion.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 22 October 2010
I feel I really must come to the defence of Ruth Rendells latest Wexford book by some reviewers. I was glad to see him back on the bookstore shelves. The read is NOT boring or tedious in any way in fact I found the book came swiftly to the end and it left me hoping that there would be more Wexford novels to follow with the Kingsmarkham sleuth and his trusty colleague Burden a worthy foil that Rendell uses in bringing contemporary issues into these novels through there dialogue with each other.
In this novel we have Wexford looking at the way in which British society has changed in a generation of how things were and even how everyday expressions have evolved.
The Ageing process....Wexford's diet and his reluctant concerns to keep healthy are a familiar inner battle many of us undergo from day to day in sacrificing the food and drink we used to like to stay fit and healthy! How people he has known have changed therby he too must have as well.
The issue of Islam in British society and the attitiudes the indigenous population have towards their Muslim neighbours who are no longer exotic creatures but citizens going about their everyday lives and the pre-concieved views we unthinkingly take towards them.
All these issue are woven into the fabric of the novel so that it stimulates the mind as a whodunnit with extras.The story is well written and once again Wexford is reliable and consistant.
Long may Ruth Rendell reign, I loved the book and recommend it .
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 1 November 2010
There were so many mistakes in the transcription of this book the ebook format it made it difficult to read. I know the ebook version is cheaper but it should be of the same editorial standard as the paperback or hardback versions. There is no way that a traditional book would have been sold with this many errors. Amazon take note, shoddy ebooks like this will damage the uptake of the Kindle.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
As an avid fan of Ruth Rendell novels for many years I ordered this book early and in hard cover as I couldn't wait to read it and how disappointed I was on receiving my copy and settling in for a good read!
The plot if you could call it that was non existent and absolute rubbish.It had such potential when we were taken back to Wexfords past but to base an accusation of murder on how someone looked at you is ludicrous.There were silly sub plots about a possible abduction for an arranged marriage which was again based on nothing more than a hunch as if police had time to chase around following information so fragile.
Ruth Rendell should be ashamed a lazy novel with none of the excitement which we know she can produce.
Dont buy this book you can have my copy for free!!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 17 December 2010
The book was ok. A little tedious in parts which I don't usually expect from Ruth Rendell. However, the kindle version was riddled with typos. This made it difficult to understand in parts and definitely irritating. it seemed to have been created using voice recognition software with all it's faults clearly in view. If I had realised how poorly it was proof read I would not have purchased it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 August 2013
I am a huge fan of Ruth Rendell's work. She has produced some of the finest crime fiction, but novel this is certainly not one of those. There are a number of reasons for this. First, and unlike her previous work, it is very badly and unclearly written. Thus with a plethora of characters weaving their way through a long time frame (and often changing their names) it is difficult (at least for me) to remember who was whom. Second, it is - and I find this hard to believe - if is extremely boring for a crime thriller. The investigation only really gets going after p. 200! The first three quarters of the book are essential dull and repetitive reminiscences of Inspector Wexford going back into the 60s. These bear little relation to the case at hand, except in passing, and we are not told these facts, as might be expected, in flashback, but rather by Wexford narrating his experiences in the past to his assistant, Burden. This is unremittingly dull. Third, when the case is ultimately resolved it is a huge anticlimax and little of the lengthy back story relate in any way to the ultimate solution (as I was ever hopefully expecting).

There are some interesting aspects to the book which could easily have been developed. The Muslim angle for example is interesting; the discussion of racism and political correctness likewise could have been a really poignant subtext but this was not done here.

What I think happened (not in the book, but in the world of publishing, so I'm not giving anything away) is this. The publishers asked Rendell if she had any more Wexford novels available. I suspect she was engaged on another, perhaps more formidable, writing project at the time. She said, 'no'. The publishers then in desperation - because they know any book with the words 'Rendell' and 'Wexford' on the cover will sell - asked if she had anything lying about that might be easily turned into a Wexford novel. She then said that she had some disjointed and unfinished ideas from the late 1990s. They jumped at it and published this ill-considered mess without reading it and waited for the money to roll in. My surprise is that Rendell allowed this to happen (I have no idea if this is the true version of events but I find it difficult seeing how this book could have been published in any other way). This is real shame.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CDVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
One of the problems with any series of detective novels that has been adapted into a long-running television series is that there's a tendency to reimagine it in terms of its small screen incarnation when reading it. Unfortunately, Nigel Anthony, the reader of the unabridged audio version of Ruth Rendell's latest Wexford novel, somewhat understandably takes his cue from George Baker when delivering Wexford's dialogue, which becomes strangely distracting. But that's perhaps not the only niggling thing about a promising start that has Wexford seeing a suspect he believes got away with it suddenly back in is old hunting ground, triggering not just memories of the crime but his own past. On a few occasions these flashbacks even have Wexford awkwardly slipping in bits of historical information ("DNA had been discovered but Watson, Crick and Wilkins had yet to win the Nobel Prize for their discovery. It would be a long time before it could be put to forensic use."), making it feel less like a trip through Wexford's mind and memories as a précis from wikipedia, not so much taking you back in time as taking you out of the story.

If the plot were better it might not matter so much, but often it hangs on rather tenuous threads and minor details that seem less like a detective's intuition and more like a writer trying to make bricks without straw. Ironically there's possibly a good TV movie in it for the very reasons it doesn't grip as a novel - it's the kind of book where it's easy to see what could be cut to get to the heart of the matter with a lot less fuss.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
For Ruth Rendell, it's another episode in her Inspector Wexford series, a popular British police procedural of the first water. "The Monster in the Box" is Rendell's 22nd Wexford novel and she's still going strong.

This one, however, takes a different tact, a drastic turn, in her approach to one of most cerebral series of the genre. Here, with her always sensitive and sensible direction, Rendell's narrative takes us back in time, to the time when Wexford is just beginning his career as a police detective. First, this flashback technique provides us with some interesting biographical material of Wexford--what he was like back then, his personal life, his desire to become a great policeman, one of intellect and wisdom. As a young policeman, he spent much of his time studying "Sometimes he went out to the pub in the evenings...but mostly he stayed in and read. Public libraries were in their heyday then...(with) lots and lots of good books. He read them, poetry, and plays and novels. Worlds opened for him, and far from distracting him from his duties, they seemed to make him a better policeman."

This first case, however, has resided with him for all these years. Outside the house where Wexford was investigating his first murder case (a woman found strangled in her bedroom), he notices "a short, muscular man wearing a scarf and walking a dog. He gave Wexford an unnerving stare." And with nothing but "a feeling," Wexford is convinced this man, Eric Targo, is the murderer. Alas, nothing is proved and the case basically remains unsolved. Still, many years later, Wexford continues to sense Targo's presence (literally and figuratively). Targo moves on and now years later, he's back in Kingsmarkham and Wexford's sensibilities (and his belief) are rekindled. And murders begin to happen. Along with his doubting able assistant Mike Burden, Wexford "plods" along, waiting and hoping for just the right clue to drop.

In addition to the main element of the novel, Rendell's penchant for subplots continues. Social significance has long been a trait of Rendell's works and her last few books have dealt strongly with women's issues, racial issues, and cultural issues. (Dame Rendell is a member of the House of Lords and holds strong personal views here.)

In "Monster," one of Wexford's assistants, a very socially correct officer, fears that a local Pakistani girl is about to be forced into an arranged marriage. "Wexford's experience had taught him what deep waters one struggles to swin in when plunging into the traditions of another culture." Wexford has his hands full, but even an escaped lion, which "terrorized" the neighborhood for a while, doesn't deter him from his primary objective: to prove that Targo is the murderer.

Whether or not there are upcoming Wexfords remains to be seen, but the 22 books have all been well worth the time spent. From "From Doon with Death," the first Wexford installment, readers have not been disappointed. In addition, Rendell writes under the name of Barbara Vine, departing from the police procedural to enter into the more psychological thriller genre, also worth the time.
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