Top positive review
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Incredibly good debut novel, also a great mystery
on 17 February 2004
Margaret Parsons is dead. She appeared to lead a very dull life. She had been a "good" woman. Religious, old-fashioned, and respectable, her life had been as spotless and ordinary as her home, as unexciting and dependable as her marriage.
However, it was not because of her life that Chief Inspector Wexford got involved, but her death... How is it possible that a woman who had led such a quiet, respectable, unspectacular life could have met such a death of passion and violence? To Wexford, it simply does not make sense, until he begins to slowly uncover the layers of Margaret Parsons' real life...
This, the first Wexford novel and Rendell's debut in the world of the published writer, is a remarkable crime novel, for several reasons. Firstly, and most importantly of course, it is an excellent mystery; a brilliant puzzle, worthy of Agatha Christie. The investigation twists and turns down unexpected paths, and the diligent Inspector Wexford follows each clue faithfully, until the entirely satisfying and surprising solution. However, unlike Christie, Rendell's mystery is more rounded. It is more socially conscious (although that's not at al to say that some of Christie's weren't; she was excellent at the divide between the upper- and lower-classes), the characters are more real, more developed, more human and thus more interesting. The writing is also better; more compelling, with greater clarity; precision.
"From Doon With Death" is one of the most important debuts of all time. Not just because it marked the future coming of a great novelist, but because it displayed a CURRENTLY great novelist who has, over the years, simply ascended to pinnacles of even greater excellence and quality. It is a great novel from a novelist who got even better. It has also stood the test of time remarkably. The themes it covers are still very relevant today, and in some areas this book is even very much ahead of its time. Another thing to be noted is that, even though almost 20 other Wexford novels have appeared since, it is still one of the very strongest, and also unique in the series. Rendell has never repeated herself, and over the course of 50+ books, that's rather amazing.
This is an absolutely wonderful debut novel, and a brilliant mystery as well. It comes as highly recommended as all her work.