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4.6 out of 5 stars40
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 11 February 2012
I'm a great fan of the Rendell/Vine non Wexford books and started reading them about 25 years ago. I wanted to go back and read what I had missed before this time and this proved difficult as some of her books have naturally dated. This one, however is a classic where the story unfolds within a suburban North London house in 1971 and deals with the happenings within. It's the story of conniving Stanley, hated by his live-in mother in law Maud as she perceives him to be a no good layabout and Stanley's plans for her demise so he can inherit her fortune.

The wonderful thing about RR's characters are that they are so clearly defined that they take shape and form straight away, mainly through conversation and subtle mannerisms and there are never any sharp personality changes which seem to exist so often in modern writing. I love normal situations that turn into something more and this most certainly delivers. A blast from the past. Excellent.
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on 14 June 2012
I have enjoyed so many of Ruth Rendells novels and this one is no exception. She so understands the criminal mind and through this understanding relays back to us the humanity of the loser,so that we can empathise even finding some of them quite lovable. Stanley is one of her lovable? losers and we follow him from one gruesome error to the next right to the end. She is a truly epic writer.
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on 16 February 2011
Unlike most Rendell novels, this is not a mystery, and hardly even a murder. The story is set chiefly inside a small suburban house. Three people live in the house, then two. We are fully aware of what happened to the third person - who did what to whom, and why. And what happened afterwards.

In general terms, this is the story of the deterioration of a marriage, spurred on by the presence of a vindictive mother-in-law. More specifically, it is an examination of the unsavoury mind of Stanley Manning, who is obsessed by greed and crossword puzzles, and who is eventually brought down by violet cachous and a bit of genealogy.

The book belongs to the days before DNA tests, so Stanley will forever be blamed for a murder he connived at but didn't commit, and as things pan out, it rather looks as if nobody (except you, dear reader) will ever know the truth about Auntie Ethel. However, the whole thing was Stanley's fault from start to finish, and his comeuppance is wholely deserved.

When I first started the book, it felt a bit claustrophobic and I wasn't sure that I would want to read to the end, but I was quickly drawn into the story and anxious to find out how... or whether... this complete waste-of-space could extricate himself from the web of deceit he was weaving. It is not vintage Rendell, but very enjoyable nonetheless, and if you are partial to the occasional cryptic crossword clue, Stanley won't disappoint.
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on 9 October 2014
i knew id enjoy it because you can rely on ruth rendell every time, buuut, there was a certain sameness with some of the characters to those in others of her books and other similarities made me feel the style was a little jaded. still, interesting and entertaining.
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on 26 July 2013
...and must get another copy as it is so good. Yes, it's depressing in places (but I like depressing), but the characters are so well drawn, especially Stanley and Maud. May seem dated now, but well worth the read.
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on 28 January 2013
And loved it. Ruth Rendell is a huge favourites of mine, and to discover one I hadn't read, was a treat. I worked how I liked my "pages" to look, and couldn't put it down till I had finished it.
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on 13 January 2014
Exciting page turner. Anyone who likes Ruth Rendell will enjoy this book. A clever theme is running through the novel with a dramatic ending.
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on 3 June 2015
as a fan of Ruth Rendell for many years, this book didnt disappoint as it ticks all the boxes - everyday mundane lives of ordinary people in the suburbs , hiding sinister intentions and murky pasts, evil thoughts ,and marraiges that are long dead in the water..
I can always rely on her books to entertain and keep me reading .
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on 18 November 2014
Ruth Rendell is one of my favourite authors but..... since this was one of her earliest books I will forgive her. It is very dated and the language is awkward and doesn't flow. I couldn't finish it. Not a typical Rendell book. Don't judge her by this one.
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on 30 September 2015
Terrific little story, Ruth Rendell at her best, with an obsessive character in a suffocating domestic situation trying to make events work for him but finding himself gradually losing the control he needs to feel secure
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