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56 of 61 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wexford gets a new lease of life
While I have enjoyed Ruth Rendell's work for many years, the Inspector Wexford series has always held less interest for me than her standalone and Barbara Vine novels, and in recent years the quality of these stories in particular seems to have dropped off alarmingly. The most recent, 2009's 'The Monster In The Box', was a chore to read: a central villain with an absurdly...
Published on 22 Aug 2011 by M. D. Smart

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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Time to have a word with your publishers, Ruth ...
I'm a great fan of Ruth Rendell's, but have struggled with most of her recent offerings, and this latest one struck me as terribly lame, especially if you've read its prequel, 'A Sight for Sore Eyes'. Where's the pleasure in reading 200 pages of implausible investigation about three bodies whose deaths you already know everything about, and then just 60 devoted to the...
Published on 13 Sep 2011 by Phil


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56 of 61 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wexford gets a new lease of life, 22 Aug 2011
By 
M. D. Smart (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
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While I have enjoyed Ruth Rendell's work for many years, the Inspector Wexford series has always held less interest for me than her standalone and Barbara Vine novels, and in recent years the quality of these stories in particular seems to have dropped off alarmingly. The most recent, 2009's 'The Monster In The Box', was a chore to read: a central villain with an absurdly unconvincing excuse for a motive, a less than thrilling plot about a possible forced marriage, and worst of all, a poor attempt at retelling Wexford's personal history, which not only contradicted her earlier novels but was full of the most risible coincidences - how could anyone take seriously the proposition that a young Wexford fell for two similar-looking women, both called Dora and both encountered in Cornwall within the space of a few months?

Needless to say, I wasn't looking forward to 'The Vault' with any great enthusiasm...which made it all the more pleasant a surprise. Wexford has been given a new lease of life by his retirement and relocation to London. Here we find him meeting a policeman he worked with on an earlier case ('Murder Being Once Done') and being asked to assist in a new investigation involving a number of bodies discovered under a patio.

This book is a semi-sequel to the 1998 standalone novel 'A Sight For Sore Eyes' - it isn't absolutely necessary to have read that book first, but it does add to the enjoyment (and it's very good in it's own right). I was concerned that, knowing the story from that book, there would be no new mystery here. However, another body has been left under the patio of Orcadia Cottage since the end of 'A Sight For Sore Eyes', and this gradually becomes the focus of Wexford's investigation.

I'm not sure whether the change in Wexford's status or location has inspired Ms Rendell, but even the writing seemed to flow better here than in some of her recent work. 'The Vault' certainly isn't among her best books - it's not even up to the best of the Wexford series - but it's a huge improvement on his previous outing and a reminder that Ruth Rendell can still deliver the goods in a way few other crime writers can match.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Time to have a word with your publishers, Ruth ..., 13 Sep 2011
By 
Phil (Bristol, UK) - See all my reviews
I'm a great fan of Ruth Rendell's, but have struggled with most of her recent offerings, and this latest one struck me as terribly lame, especially if you've read its prequel, 'A Sight for Sore Eyes'. Where's the pleasure in reading 200 pages of implausible investigation about three bodies whose deaths you already know everything about, and then just 60 devoted to the fourth murder, whose perpetrator has been referred to so little that it's hard to feel anything on disclosure?

This one is at least better written than most of her others of late, but it's riddled with flaws. The blame lies with her publishers, of course, who are like all the rest in the trade, in not giving a monkey's about the quality of the books they publish so long as they sell - another example of the contempt with which big-business-people treat the customers who pay their wages.

Some of the problems that should have been picked up by the proofreader or copy editor:

* If Wexford has been thinking constantly about this man they believe was called Keith HILL, and then comes across a Francine HILL, why does it take him two days to realise that she could be the Francine they're looking for? Not what you'd expect of an experienced policeman with a functioning memory, is it?
* Lucy Blanch is a young London cop, and she doesn't know what "to take a butcher's" means? Come off it.
* Martin Rokeby is devastated by the loss in value of his home caused by the bodies found in the 'vault', but then decides he's keen to go ahead with his original plan to develop it into an underground room. Aside from the psychological unlikeliness of this (a rare lapse for Rendell), he would have to be mad to do so. Who would buy a house with an underground room in which four bodies had been found?
* Tom Ede could never have gained the status of a detective superintendent by displaying the kind of incompetence and disregard for procedures that he does. Just ridiculous.
* Wexford says he hasn't ever sent an email before the one in this novel. And he was a senior policeman during the past few decades?
* And here's the proof, if you need it, that her publishers can't be bothered with proofreading: on page 161 she refers to a 'flyover' being posted through a letter-box, instead of a flyer. Funny, but also depressing.

Surely Ruth Rendell is so powerful and wealthy that she could risk saying to her publisher: If you don't do your job with the editing, I'll take my books elsewhere.

Anyway, in summary, this book is readable and mildly entertaining, but a poor sequel to 'A Sight for Sore Eyes', which is vintage Rendell. I strongly recommended you read that, and don't bother with this one.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Terribly disappointed, 2 Dec 2011
By 
Ros France (South West France) - See all my reviews
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I'll start by saying I am a devoted Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine fan, often buying her books as soon as they are published.................but after some below average offerings in the last few years I have to say The Vault is just about rock bottom.

In general a long ramble with a sub-plot involving one of Wexford's daughters which wasn't really a "plot" at all (in fact I am convinced it was added at some stage just to make the book up to a respectable page count!). The book is a sad sequel to the magnificent "Sight For Sore Eyes" featuring a now-retired Wexford, whom we are to believe recently left a top ranking police career without ever managing to learn how to send an email, use the internet or to have even gained a passing knowledge of police data bases. No, Wexford tracks down his witnesses by walking the streets of London and "accidently" happening on the right people, and by interviewing suspects despite the fact he has no official standing whatsoever.

Rendell was always spot on with the psychology of her characters, sadly this no longer applies - people act out of character throughout the book, and by the time I reached the last few chapters I could not care less whodunnit as the whole plot was beyond belief - we have millionaires living in shabby flats, a woman who is scared of the police suddenly making a formal complaint, owners of expensive housing blithely leaving gates and doors unlocked in a capital city and Wexford acting like a Victorian patriach.

I can only assume one of two things: Either the publishers are simply willing to print anything with Rendell's name on it for the sake of profit, no matter how bad the book OR the publishers are scared to offer Rendell constructive criticism in case they lose their cash-cow.

Okay, every writer produces a turkey now and again, and Ruth Rendell has produced far more high calibre books than she has damp squibs...........but after this latest experience I won't be rushing to buy the next Rendell/Vine offering, I shall be waiting for it to appear in charity shops or on a 1.99 offer instead. The Vault was a complete waste of money.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dreadful...disappointing, 14 Aug 2012
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This review is from: The Vault: (A Wexford Case) (Paperback)
I have a mixed history with Ruth Rendell; some of her books I've admired and loved, others I've thought lazy. This book for me fell into the latter category. I started off with huge excitement because this book picks up from where another of hers - SIGHT FOR SORE EYES - left off. I enjoyed SIGHT, so I was looking forward to finding out what happened to the characters. However as soon as I discovered that both Rendell and her editor couldn't be bothered to read the earlier book and check the character's name - GREX, not BREX, I was alerted to the possibility that this was one of her 'lazy' books, and I was proved right. Ruth Rendell has a formula with her Wexford books to intertwine a storyline about Wexford's family with the central crime plot. Unfortunately this time she chose a story featuring Sylvia, who is by a long way the dullest and least believable of the Wexford clan. She has been so unnattractively portrayed in previous books that I'm sure I'm not the only Rendell reader who has to stifle a groan when she appears. The sub-plot isn't the most irritating thing about this book, though. I find Rendell's efforts to explore race/illegal immigrant issues quite embarrassing. the fact that the London female police officer in the book is black seems to be treated as if it were extraordinarily exotic, whereas any Londoner wouldn't find it unusual at all. The South African character turned out to be racist - surprise surprise! This stereotype of South Africans is surely racist in itself? (and about 30 years out of date). And I'm sure many of her readers would have second guessed that when a Latvian-born cash in hand cleaner appears, she was going to be involved in a prostitution/illegal immigrant storyline; Rendell seems only to be able to include other nationalities by using them to represent 'issues' like this.

I thank Rendell for the enjoyment she has brought me in the past with many of her books, but this one won't be re-read with pleasure I'm afraid.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Jigsaw Puzzle, 20 Dec 2011
By 
Richard M. Seel (Norfolk UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Vault (BBC Audio) (Audio CD)
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I have to admit that I have never read any of the Chief Inspector Rex Wexford books but I have a certain knowledge about him because of his popularity.

He has now retired and is asked, after a chance meeting with Detective Superintendent Tom Ede in the street, if he was interested in working on a case as an adviser. Ede was having difficulties and knowing about the reputation of Wexford, he feels that he would be a great help. Wexford takes little time to accept the opportunity - he is missing his work.

He and his wife spend part of their time in London living in a coach house owned by his daughter (who is an actor) and the rest of the time at his own home. The case will be in London and much to his surprise, he soon discovers how much he enjoys walking particularly now he no longer has a police car to take him places.

Tom Ede explains that the bodies of two women and one man have been found in the coal hole in an house in St John's Woods. The house has had several owners and one of the women might have lived there. The man has expensive jewellery in his pocket possibly belonging to one of the former owners. But none of the bodies carry any identification.

Wexford is excited and pleased to have been asked to help. The story continues with the investigations but it also includes references to his family life - how his wife is coping with the fact that he is now no longer employed but is happily working as an adviser to the police; what happens to one of his daughters when she finishes a love affair and Wexford's relationship with a former colleague.

Nigel Anthony reads the unabridged story and an excellent job he makes of it too. One talks about books and says they can't be put done and in this case the CDs are quickly replaced until one hears the end of the story. Something to listen to on a long car journey or long winter evening.

Review by Shirleyanne Seel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Vault by Ruth Rendell, 10 Dec 2012
Elegant Writing and Searing Insights

Authors take one for a ride. Sometimes you're on the pillion of a motor bike, sometimes in a Cadillac or an old skedonk. When I enter Rendell's world, I feel that I am in a stately carriage. It proceeds with dignified assurance, and you encounter a caste of well defined characters who engage your attention with their interlinked adventures and dramas and deaths.

Baroness Rendell, who has a Labour seat in the House of Lords, perceives the British landscape from an upper middle class vantage point, and her characters reflect the attitudes and prejudices of class and belief which are prevalent in contemporary English society. She shares this ability to display English society in its oddities and eccentricities and even cruelty, with her fellow Lord and friend, PD James, the distinguished crime writer who is a Tory peer, so they do make an odd couple.

This book features one of her most popular creations, Chief Inspector Wexford, a policeman who is now retired but is finding it difficult to throw off the habitual patterns of official life. Then a colleague invites him to be an adviser on a difficult case - and Wexford become encoiled in a multiple murder mystery.

Someone inadvertently discovers the hidden entrance to a coal hole and lo and behold, there are three corpses amouldering in its depths. Who are they, where did they come from, when were they killed and entombed in the depths of a grand old house?

Wexford's enquiries take him on a complex path of discovery in the course of which we meet a varied bunch. Rendell clearly loves London and she explores many of its historic environs as Wexford, an inveterate walker, goes ambling pensively about the city, bumping, rather miraculously, into vital witnesses as he does so.

Her characters resonate with current attitudes. Wexford refrains from an appropriate comment because he does not wish to seem racist. (It is this attitude, taken to extremes, which, in real life, allowed a vile gang to sexually abuse many young girls for several years in a recent scandalous case in England).

When a colleague tells Wexford that he has prayed for him (because of a tragic occurrence involving his daughter) Wexford is embarrassed. Any mention of prayer or religious belief is a social solecism these days. Rendell makes this policeman a figure of amusement too because of his fondness for clichés ("you'll have to grin and bear it"). Religion, it seems, is just another cliché.

And there is a South African woman who is, of course, arrogantly overbearing and contemptuous in her treatment of the Eastern European cleaning woman she employs. Rendell, too, is cliché prone.

But her writing is potent. Here's what happens when someone knocks on a door:

"It was eventually answered by an old woman, a woman who looked as if she was in her hundredth year. Her face was a relief map, criss-crossed by roads and rivers, her eye sockets moon craters, her mouth a thin slash between escarpments. A wisp of hair floated like a puff of white smoke on her head."

Rendell has been a prolific writer - also under her other name, Barbara Vine -- for many years. Now at the age of 82, she is still at it, fortunately for all of us who appreciate such elegant writing which elevates her to literary distinction.-- Prospero.

Rating: 4 stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Gradual Falling Off, 13 Oct 2012
This review is from: The Vault: (A Wexford Case) (Paperback)
Is Ruth Rendell running out of ideas in writing a book based on one of her previous-and better- novels from some years ago?

The sad answer is probably yes.

"The Vault" is nothing like as good as "A Sight for Sore Eyes", and Wexford's role as unofficial aide to the "real" police highly unlikely, and unconvincing.

Even the resolution to the matter of the fourth body is lame, and has none of the force of the story behind the original three bodies in the cellar.

The side story of Wexford's daughter is merely an absurdity, and should have been removed in the editing; the presence of Burden is also entirely pointless.

All in all one would read this book out of curiosity, but it cannot rank with Rendell's fine earlier works.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exciting listen., 19 Nov 2011
By 
Mike J (London) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Vault (BBC Audio) (Audio CD)
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I listen to a lot of audio CD's and some can be fairly dull, but this one really grabbed me. I know the name Ruth Rendell , but am not overly familiar with her work.

The tale centres around Inspector Wexford, well, ex-Inspector, who does the usual super sleuth tracking down of the criminal, but, this crime, is a little different.

I am not giving anything away by saying that three bodies are found in an underground cellar, two have been there some years, and one is more recent!

Wexford goes on the trail of the killer.

I liked the way the story unfolded in a believable fashion and the voice acting was very good. Set in and around the London area.

Well worth a listen.

Title is unabridged, eight CD's lasting around nine hours.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A enjoyable re-union with Wexford, 31 Aug 2011
By 
Bluebell (UK) - See all my reviews
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I was reading an American forensic crime novel You Belong To Me that was failing to capture my interest when The Vault was delivered. I switched books and was immediately hooked by the story and Ruth Rendell's elegant writing. She manages, without excessive descriptive prose, to paint a picture that I can see in my mind's eye and create believable characters. I've enjoyed many Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine books and generally prefer the Wexford series owing to her creation of strong and admirable core of characters: Wexford, his wife Dora and fellow police officer, Burdon: an enjoyment aided by the TV series with three excellent actors playing those parts to put real flesh on the fictional people.

It makes a pleasant change from most other detective series, bar Donna Leon's Brunetti, that Wexford is a happily married man, with a family, who doesn't get drunk or smoke and, though sometimes a little irritable, generally gets on with his colleagues. The Vault is a departure from the rest of the Wexford books in that he has now retired from the police force. However, he is co-opted by a former colleague, now working in London, to help solve the mystery of how four bodies ended up in an underground coal cellar. Adding to the difficulty of solving the crime(s) is that one of the bodies has been dead for a far shorter time than the other three.

I gather that this book is a sequel to A Sight For Sore Eyes, which didn't involve Wexford. I don't recall reading that novel and don't think the omission spoiled my appreciation of The Vault.

I see from other reviews that not all are pleased by this book, however, I found it most enjoyable. I liked reading about Wexford's perambulations around London; his family dramas and his opinions about modern life. I prefer detective stories that don't involve a lot of savage violence described in lascivious detail, but instead build up clues, forensic details and intuition to finally solve the case. I rarely work out who "who dunnit" and don't try to, instead just enjoy the journey to the final page.

I haven't given the book 5 stars as it isn't the most riveting page-turner, but I do feel its well wroth reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Publisher needs to hire an editor, 19 Feb 2014
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This review is from: The Vault: (A Wexford Case) (Paperback)
Here's a short list of things wrong with this book:
1. There are a large number of glaring flaws including misspellings, repeats of the same verbiage within a few pages, digressions into descriptions of plants and foliage, etc. that should have been caught by any junior editor at a reputable publisher.
2. The character of of Det. Sup. Tom Ede is about as wooden and unbelievable as he can be.
3. Descriptions of Wexford's perambulations through London are annoying and mostly pointless.
4. The front of the book contains rave reviews from respected crime fiction authors who, I am willing to bet, never opened this offering.
5. As has been noted by other reviewers, the plotting, pacing and generally dysfunctional writing are a very long way from Rendell's best.
All in all - a great disappointment.
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The Vault: (A Wexford Case)
The Vault: (A Wexford Case) by Ruth Rendell (Paperback - 10 May 2012)
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