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3.8 out of 5 stars17
3.8 out of 5 stars
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This is still a fine, engaging mystery, but to be honest Put on By Cunning does lack the special little ingredient that marks out Rendell's best Wexford stories. Wexford himself doesn't seem quite as sharp, not quite such a presence, and there is nothing in this book that really makes it stand out as unique among her work, although as I say it is still a fine enough mystery and better than most books on the market today. I certainly don't think it could be much longer than it is (which is not something you could say of msot of her work - most of them beg to be lengthier, and the reader desperately wishes they were so, to prolong the experience. Wisely, though, Rendell keeps them at the length which is necessary) as it is not as hugely interesting as some of her books.
It tells the story of the investigation into the death of renowned flautist Sir Manuel Camargue, who is found dead in a snow-drift having ventured outside his house during the night. At first it seems a straightforward case of death by misadventure; a nice easy case for Wexford to tie up. However, wexford has his niggling doubts, which are strengthened by the return of Camargue's estranged daughter, now his heiress, after a considerable absence of 19 years.
As I say, Put on By Cunning is a fine enough novel by any standard, but just not quite as engaging or special or interesting as Rendell's novels usually are. Certainly not the one to start with. This probably requires an already healthy appreciation of the series.
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on 15 March 2010
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this Wexford story: subtle and curious, Ruth Rendell really plays with our expectations of this kind of story. We know a twist is coming, but it's almost impossible to get even a glimpse of it. When it comes though, the conclusion is surprising yet feels inevitable and therefore satisfying.

There's some beautiful writing here: how economically yet vividly she evokes Kingsmarkham in winter, California in spring and then, at the end, the atmosphere of evening in a tiny town in the south of France. I've always thought Ruth Rendell was a mistress at describing the sky; and she does this without resort to fancy words for blue or unusual adjectives - plain language producing far from plain imagery.

Again, for these new editions, Arrow need to employ better proofreaders. This text appears to have been copy-typed fast and not checked. Typos every three or four pages: at least two "Wexfrods"; several dropped capitals; two-letter words inverted; and even a couple of sentences that simply don't make sense! Please sort this out, Arrow - the Chief Inspector deserves better than this!
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One of the reasons I read English murder mysteries is because they take place in ... England. Ruth Rendell's Wexford novels are situated in the fictional small town of Kingsmarkham. Wexford occasionally makes his way to London, which is a few hours at most by train or car.

So it was a surprise to find Wexford taking his holidays in my native California. It was like seeing someone you recognize but can't place because they aren't in the place you normally see them. He and wife Dora make the trip in the second half of the book, and it's fun to see Wexford driving up Highways 1 and 101 and hearing his impressions of the places and people. He may have been hallucinating at one point when he saw a sign announcing the next town with its elevation listed in meters. Not likely. There was a time in the Seventies when the mileage signs were marked in both miles and kilometers, but often as not, the metric portion of the sign had bullet holes in it and eventually the government gave up on trying to introduce the metric system to an unwilling, even hostile, population. Our loss.

Wexford spends most of his two week holiday in California chasing down clues in a case he is supposed to have abandoned, but finds himself obsessed by. His wife goes sightseeing without him, and seems to be having a fine old time with an old flame who'd relocated to Los Angeles years ago.

Not long after the Wexfords return from California, Wexford manages to find it necessary to pursue the case to the South of France, but this time with his sidekick, Mike Burden.

The mystery itself gets quite complicated as Wexford chases down one false lead after another. It takes several pages of explaining to get all the pieces to fit in this one.

I'm still not sure I bought the whole mystery and its convoluted explanation, but going along with Wexford on his travels was certainly worth the ride.
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on 31 March 2014
Its been a few years since I last read this mid-period Wexford novel and I seem to remember that it was not one of my favourites. It still isn't BUT it I did enjoy it much more than I expected to. It starts off really well and I liked the main trio of suspects, the Zoffanys and especially the charming and intriguing Natalie Arno. Then it goes a bit flat with Reg and Dora's trip to California which, ultimately, seems a bit unnecessary and really just an excuse for Rendell to write about foreign parts for a change! She really enjoys herself with the descriptive passages here (and again later on in the South of France) but I'm not sure that any of it adds much to the actual story. Things pick up a bit again towards the end though I do sometimes wish that Reg's explanations to his stooge Burden of 'how it all happened' weren't QUITE so drawn out as they always are! I'm sure most of the readers are quite a bit ahead of him by this time! Anyway, its all well thought out and quite clever and I did really enjoy re-reading this one.
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on 22 September 2010
I love Ruth Rendell and notice that this was one of her earlier ones and although it was ok I found it very slow and possibly would not recommend it. Also, as another reviewer said, this book had a large number of spelling mistakes. This needs to be looked at if this book is published again.
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on 8 March 2012
To my mind, this is Ruth Rendell at her best. We even get to see Wexford make some mistakes, making him very human! If I was the author, I would be ashamed of the publication. It's chock-a-block with typo's, incorrect words, sentences that make no sense....all in all, the pleasure of the story is diminished by having to wade through all these errors...toward the end of the book, there seem to be errors on every page. I certainly would not buy another Arrow Publications book.
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on 13 April 2015
Only just holds one's interest with the help,in my own case, of being kept indoors by cold weather. It has, however, a pawkiness which keeps the finger wiping the screen.
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on 20 April 2015
what a great mind ruth rendall has a great story line a sure 5 istill did not suspect who was the killer.
highly reccommend this book to all who dunnit's
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on 3 September 2013
A good story in completely the same style and genre as all the other Wexford novels, so if you like them, you'll like this.
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on 30 October 2015
She never fails, another good book, shame there won't be any more.
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