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4.3 out of 5 stars72
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 29 April 2005
"A judgement in stone" is the story of a crime, and the reasons behind it. All that happens is in direct relation to a secret, Eunice Parchman's secret.
Eunice, the housekeeper of the Coverdale family, seems to be merely a dull woman with an insipid personality. She is cold and quite solemn, but not violent, at least she doesn't seem to be. However, events would prove otherwise, as the reader is informed from the very first page of "A judgement in stone": "Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write".
This is the story of how an apparently normal person is ridden by the all-powering obsession of protecting a secret she deems shameful, that she is illiterate. How far will she go to avoid the disclosure of that fact is something you will learn if you read this book, although you already have a pretty important clue...
On the whole, I can say that I highly recommend this book. The main character isn't likeable ("A stone that breathed was Eunice, as she had always been"), but the story is engaging and well-written. Moreover, the writer managed to write a convincing psychological study of Eunice that allows the reader to look into the mind of a cold-blooded killer. Those are the main reasons why you won't be able to stop reading this book once you start it :)
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This is one of Ruth Rendell's earlier works and, perhaps, one of her best. More of a novella, rather than a full fledged novel, by virtue of its brevity, it is absolutely brilliant, well-written, and gripping from the get go. Ms. Rendell captures the reader with her first sentence, "Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write."
This is a descriptive and insightful literary stunner about how an illiterate, middle aged women gets to the point that she wipes out a family one fateful evening. The book takes the reader, step by step, through the events that lead up to this crossroad. It explores the mind of Eunice Parchman, a woman so limited in her world view and so robotic in her actions that she is almost repellent. The reader marvels at her very existence and is sure to find her fascinating character study.
Ms. Parchman's interactions with the well educated Coverdale family, who employs her as a housekeeper, are intriguing and always interesting, as she struggles to keep her illiteracy a secret. How Ms. Parchman circumvents its discovery for as long as does, the lengths to which she goes to maintain a facade of literacy, and her socially inappropriate responses to every day situations, paint an intriguing psychological portrait for the reader. The eventual discovery of her illiteracy results in a ghastly outcome, which makes for some gripping and chilling reading.
Ms. Rendell is masterful in her storytelling, infusing mundane situations with an understated horror that is all the more chilling because of the common denominator that strikes a chord with the reader. Written is well-nuanced, taut, spare style, this book is a literary gem that will keep the reader riveted to its pages. Bravo!
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on 24 February 2006
I've always hated mystery novels where I have to guess who the killer is, and I can't resist cheating by reading the last few pages. So when I read the first sentence of this book, "Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family...." I was hooked. And it's a fantastic book, made all the more exciting because you know what's going to happen to this family and you want to shout out and warn them. If any film companies are reading this, it would make a fantastic drama! And thank goodness I don't know anyone like Eunice, she's truly dreadful. A gripping book.
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A Judgement in Stone is Rendell's masterpiece (well, along with one or two others). It is popular opinion among her fans, and it is also true. I have never read a better book on the class division in England; any books that deal with probing the minds of the mad are written only by Rendell herself.
"Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write", is its famous first line, and a brilliant one it is too. The crime writer Henning Mankell has said that it is his ambition to write a crime novel where, from the beginning, the reader knows exactly what is going to happen, but continues to read the rest of the book for a desperate need to find out more details such as why and how. In time, Mankell may well achieve that, but with A Judgement in Stone Rendell already has.
Despite that the reader knows what's going to happen, there is more compulsion to turn the pages even than in a normal detective story. The psychological insights and the gradual movements towards the foreshadowed events are absolutely gripping - this novel is possibly Rendell's most focused depiction of a mind driven to madness, mad actions, despite not being inherently "mad".
It's also told in a wonderful style. A retrospective one, looking back on events as if you are being told a story by a person in the room with you. It's almost delivered as a true-crime case study, a proper scientific rendering of murder.
It is truly superb. Only Rendell could write a novel where the psychoses of an illiterate lead to catastrophic murder. The writing is brilliant, the description of colliding classes is inspiring and very well-done indeed. Tension and suspension fill the pages until the very last, as the two women (Eunice and her friend Joan, follow down this terrible path.) How did it happen? What exactly set it off? Why? All questions the reader desperately wants to know. Also particularly chilling is the way that, throughout the book, the characters have so many opportunities to escape their fate, but they never take. There is always a possibility for escape, but we know they don't take it. Rendell snatches it away before long in any case.
An excellent book. It's only 200 pages, but it says so very much about people and society that it'd be easy to re-read it as soon as you finish it the first time.
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on 24 October 2001
ruth rendell has surpassed herself in this crime novel:
we know the murderer and we are told the end at the beginning. how can a novel remain a mystery when we know that much? maybe because the tragedy neither begins nor ends there.
a fearful, sullen housekeeper, shamefully hiding her illiteracy since her childhood, is hired by the Coverdale family as their housekeeper. things start to get really strange when she teams up with Lord-adoring converted ex-prostitute, Joan Smith.
the novel follows Eunice's life: eunice is illiterate and she's never even thought of doing something about it. hiding it has her been her one life priority. she manages until she finds herself alone after the death of both her parents. because of disability, she has shut herself out from the world. she broadens her horizons a little and is hired as a housekeeper. she does not understand the Coverdales nor do they understand or even know her: they just know they have a perfect housekeeper. had they known more, there would have been no "Judgement in Stone".
R.R creates amazing people who are so real. joan and eunice are out of control yet somehow understandable and that's why it works out as a story. it's an unusual, different perspective: the mystery is why she killed and not who killed.
there are poignant moments when the narrator mentions how a current even will affect the future happening. R.R uses of her usual precison. her style is invariably clear and compelling. throughout the book, we feel her fascination with psychology and the collision between the individual and society today, particularly when the circumstances drive this individual to behaviour, which is regarded as abnormal by society. knowing who the murderer is from the start is a new and confusing idea to me, but then again, isn't one of R.R's specific writing skills, the ability to confound us all?
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A Judgement in Stone is Rendell's masterpiece (well, along with one or two others). It is popular opinion among her fans, and it is also true. I have never read a better book on the class division in England; any books that deal with probing the minds of the mad are written only by Rendell herself.
"Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write", is its famous first line, and a brilliant one it is too. The crime writer Henning Mankell has said that it is his ambition to write a crime novel where, from the beginning, the reader knows exactly what is going to happen, but continues to read the rest of the book for a desperate need to find out more details such as why and how. In time, Mankell may well achieve that, but with A Judgement in Stone Rendell already has.
Despite that the reader knows what's going to happen, there is more compulsion to turn the pages even than in a normal detective story. The psychological insights and the gradual movements towards the foreshadowed events are absolutely gripping - this novel is possibly Rendell's most focused depiction of a mind driven to madness, mad actions, despite not being inherently "mad".
It's also told in a wonderful style. A retrospective one, looking back on events as if you are being told a story by a person in the room with you. It's almost delivered as a true-crime case study, a proper scientific rendering of murder.
It is truly superb. Only Rendell could write a novel where the psychoses of an illiterate lead to catastrophic murder. The writing is brilliant, the description of colliding classes is inspiring and very well-done indeed. Tension and suspension fill the pages until the very last, as the two women (Eunice and her friend Joan, follow down this terrible path.) How did it happen? What exactly set it off? Why? All questions the reader desperately wants to know. Also particularly chilling is the way that, throughout the book, the characters have so many opportunities to escape their fate, but they never take. There is always a possibility for escape, but we know they don't take it. Rendell snatches it away before long in any case.
An excellent book. It's only 200 pages, but it says so very much about people and society that it'd be easy to re-read it as soon as you finish it the first time.
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on 28 March 2001
In what "The London Times" calls a "classic," Ruth Rendell (probably better known as the creator of the immensely popular Inspector Wexford series) has certainly created an excellent thriller in "A Judgement in Stone." (We'll let it settle literarily before we dub it thus, however!) This time, Rendell takes an earlier "theme" (a St. Valentine's Day massacre!) and, with her usual precision, craft, ingenuity, and skill, gives the readers their money's worth. Four members of the Coverdale family have been murdered in a most (modern) sensational twist--the housekeeper did it! She shot them, in a most dramatic fashion--during a televised production of Mozart's "Don Giovanni." (Presenting a strong case that music doth NOT sooth the savage beast!) Was the disgruntled housekeeper Eunice Parchman angry because of the quality of the performance? Or is there another motive! Enter Detective Chief Superintendent Willliam Vetch and with the usual Rendell flair supporting him,
uncovers additional motive--and a secret that Miss Parchment has sequestered for years. Without giving it away (of course!), I consider this to be one of Rendell's best. Vetch is no Reg Wexford--he's a policeman in his own right; and Rendell gives him plenty of personal rein as he deftly steps from one clue or one incident to the next before the book is finished. This is vintage Rendell.
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The story itself is fairly short only 220 pages long with relatively short chapters designed to keep the pages turning at a fast rate.

Ruth Rendall starts this book with the words 'Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write.' giving the reader the murderer, the victims and the motive straight away, but this book kept me gripped as the story of Eunices early life, her work for the Coverdales and her friendship with Joan Smith, a zealot and wife of the village postmaster.

Ruth Rendall gives us sharp observations about not only Eunice but the Coverdale family headed by George, a pompous managing director and his younger wife Jaqueline, who prefers meeting with friends and having her hair done, to keeping on top of the cleaning at the manor house they lived in Lowfield Hall.

This is a stand alone story, not one of the Wexford mysteries and show cases her psychologically based stories very convincingly. The setting of a small village in England in the early 70's fuelled by gossip in the local shop and the pub, The Blue Boar, all add to the bewiderment when the family is slayed.
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A Judgement in Stone is Rendell's masterpiece (well, along with one or two others). It is popular opinion among her fans, and it is also true. I have never read a better book on the class division in England; any books that deal with probing the minds of the mad are written only by Rendell herself.
"Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write", is its famous first line, and a brilliant one it is too. The crime writer Henning Mankell has said that it is his ambition to write a crime novel where, from the beginning, the reader knows exactly what is going to happen, but continues to read the rest of the book for a desperate need to find out more details such as why and how. In time, Mankell may well achieve that, but with A Judgement in Stone Rendell already has.
Despite that the reader knows what's going to happen, there is more compulsion to turn the pages even than in a normal detective story. The psychological insights and the gradual movements towards the foreshadowed events are absolutely gripping - this novel is possibly Rendell's most focused depiction of a mind driven to madness, mad actions, despite not being inherently "mad".
It's also told in a wonderful style. A retrospective one, looking back on events as if you are being told a story by a person in the room with you. It's almost delivered as a true-crime case study, a proper scientific rendering of murder.
It is truly superb. Only Rendell could write a novel where the psychoses of an illiterate lead to catastrophic murder. The writing is brilliant, the description of colliding classes is inspiring and very well-done indeed. Tension and suspension fill the pages until the very last, as the two women (Eunice and her friend Joan, follow down this terrible path.) How did it happen? What exactly set it off? Why? All questions the reader desperately wants to know. Also particularly chilling is the way that, throughout the book, the characters have so many opportunities to escape their fate, but they never take. There is always a possibility for escape, but we know they don't take it. Rendell snatches it away before long in any case.
An excellent book. It's only 200 pages, but it says so very much about people and society that it'd be easy to re-read it as soon as you finish it the first time.
11 comment|One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
This is one of Ruth Rendell's earlier works and, perhaps, one of her best. More of a novella, rather than a full fledged novel, by virtue of its brevity, it is absolutely brilliant, well-written, and gripping from the get go. Ms. Rendell captures the reader with her first sentence, "Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write."
This is a descriptive and insightful literary stunner about how an illiterate, middle aged women gets to the point that she wipes out a family one fateful evening. The book takes the reader, step by step, through the events that lead up to this crossroad. It explores the mind of Eunice Parchman, a woman so limited in her world view and so robotic in her actions that she is almost repellent. The reader marvels at her very existence and is sure to find her fascinating character study.
Ms. Parchman's interactions with the well educated Coverdale family, who employs her as a housekeeper, are intriguing and always interesting, as she struggles to keep her illiteracy a secret. How Ms. Parchman circumvents its discovery for as long as does, the lengths to which she goes to maintain a facade of literacy, and her socially inappropriate responses to every day situations, paint an intriguing psychological portrait for the reader. The eventual discovery of her illiteracy results in a ghastly outcome, which makes for some gripping and chilling reading.
Ms. Rendell is masterful in her storytelling, infusing mundane situations with an understated horror that is all the more chilling because of the common denominator that strikes a chord with the reader. Written is well-nuanced, taut, spare style, this book is a literary gem that will keep the reader riveted to its pages. Bravo!
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