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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another fantastic addition to the Vine Library
As with the previous reveiwer, I cannot praise Barbara Vine's latest work enough. As is often the case with Vine's books, this ia a true slow-burner, and the real action does not occur until the latter parts of the book, but the build up and characters are so compelling you are gripped from the outset, feeling, perhaps like Kerstin that you are an outsider given...
Published on 13 Mar 2006 by james-Arundel

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars dull and uneventful.
This novel contains ingredients we are familiar with: a large country manor, a family with secrets, a mysterious library, marriage proposals, a house fire - there are echoes of the Bronte sisters, Du Maurier, Austen, Agatha Christie - and all are acknowledged by the author.
BUT... this is very stale as a novel - and much of the mystery centres on the behaviour of a...
Published on 6 Mar 2006


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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another fantastic addition to the Vine Library, 13 Mar 2006
By 
james-Arundel "james-arundel" (Arundel, West Sussex, U.K.) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Minotaur (Paperback)
As with the previous reveiwer, I cannot praise Barbara Vine's latest work enough. As is often the case with Vine's books, this ia a true slow-burner, and the real action does not occur until the latter parts of the book, but the build up and characters are so compelling you are gripped from the outset, feeling, perhaps like Kerstin that you are an outsider given a privileged but disturbing vantage point to observe the family in the Hall. The Cosways are a superb creation, sinister, grotesque, comedic and pitiable by turns, certainly a dysfunctional family to rival the dynamics of the Hilliard/Longley family in A Dark adapted Eye (One of my favourites from her earlier works). The clues and pointers are placed strategically from the start, from the characters reaquainted with Kerstin at the start and those they mention, to the Roman vase, the library and Lydstep Old Hall itself, leading you compulsively onwards to the shattering conclusions. I was slightly concerned at one point that developments toward the end would result in a cheap pastiche of events in Jane Eyre and Rebecca, but Vine creates her own set of circumstances, and by references to both, she deftly avoids this.
I have thoroughly enjoyed and wholeheartedly reccommend The Minotaur
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I would give it 6 stars if I could, 8 Nov 2005
By 
Linda Sackstein "linlibrary" (Raanana Israel) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Minotaur (Hardcover)
I so agree with one of the previous reviewers that Barbara Vine/Ruth Rendell is the best writer in her genre. She is streets ahead of anyone else in the field. The plot has been dealt with by several reviewers so will not repeat it here. What is so marvellous about Vine's writing is her building up of the story to a great (and usually unexpected climax). True, the plot was fairly obvious but it was the way she approached the story that made it so interesting. I also have the problem of wanting to gallop ahead and yet rationing myself so that I don't finish the book too quickly. I have read all her books and most of them twice. Her ability to deal with and develop the characters in her books is just amazing. Each and every one of the Cosway children as well as Mrs. Cosway and the outside characters were made so human and so believable. This book deserves 6 stars
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The darkest of dark stories, 26 Dec 2006
By 
Jane Baker "jan-bookcase" (Somerset) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Minotaur (Paperback)
Magnificent. This is a family with severe and serious relationship problems which seem to me to be caused solely by the mother's dark and obsessive possessiveness, coupled with her very dark and unguessable secret. Vine's imaginative powers have no end to their depth - she's supreme. This book has sex - one character sleeping with 2 sisters at the same time, a vicar,a very dodgy doctor, a family feud simmering mostly in silence but which occasionally raises itself above the parapet to be quoshed rapidly;intigue in spades;collusion in spades; a creepy library. This is juxtaposed with an idyllic country setting.

Vine is amazing. Long may she write such chilling novels which stop us in our tracks and prevent us from doing anything except turning the pages. I can only think in superlatives about this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vintage Vine, 9 Jan 2006
By 
S. Hapgood "www.sjhstrangetales.com" - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Minotaur (Hardcover)
As soon as I heard about the plot outline for this I knew that this would be Barbara Vine/Ruth Rendell on tip-top form. We're back in the 1960s, and Kerstin Kvist, a young Swedish girl, arrives at a remote country house in the wilds of Essex, to act as nurse/companion to John Cosway, a man in his late thirties, who Kerstin is led to believe is suffering from schizophrenia. Kerstin soon realises that her duties aren't exactly arduous. She has to accompany John on his afternoon walk, and oversee his medication at bedtime. It is with this medication that Kerstin soon realises that something is very wrong at the Hall. Kerstin is up against John's mother, a truly monstrous and thoroughly detestable old lady, who rules the household with a rod of iron. There is absolutely nothing likeable about Mrs Cosway, but she is not a pantomime villain, she's all too believable. Also in the household are John's three spinster sisters, Ella, Winifred (both of whom are obsessed with the same man, an arrogant artist called Felix), and downtrodden Ida, who acts as a maid-of-all-work for everyone. As the book unfolds the lack of any human feeling or normal emotions exhibited by the Cosways becomes truly disturbing. Eventually Kerstin feels she is becoming as cowed and downtrodden as Ida.
Both Kerstin and the author's great compassion for John is what lifts this book above what could have been just any other Aga saga thriller, or a spoof of the Victorian Gothics, at which the author pokes some gentle fun at times. Kerstin's growing affection for John, and the way he tries to reach out to her in the limited way he knows how, are heart-rending. The final pay-off is done simply and low-key, but it will horrify you.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine maze you got me into!, 29 Oct 2005
This review is from: The Minotaur (Hardcover)
This is a very compelling read narrated by the story's protagonist, Kerstin Kvist who is working in England. The story takes place in rural England in the 60s, a village that has not been touched the 'revolution' sweeping other parts of the country. Kerstin is employed by a dysfunctional and sinister family made up of the tyrannical mother, four sisters and one brother who is supposedly mad. Family secrets threaten to spill over onto everyone that knows them, including Kerstin, making for a very dramatic ending. Barbara Vine has carefully constructed a tale that absorbs, twists, entangles and finally leaves you wishing for more. Her characters are psychologically profiled and one can almost feel the goosebumps, not knowing what to expect. More please, Barbara (aka Ruth Rendell)!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A terrific read by any standards, 2 Nov 2006
By 
M D Smart (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Minotaur (Paperback)
What a great pleasure it is to settle down with a new Barbara Vine novel. As they usually appear at two- or three-year intervals I always try to read them slowly and savour them, but it's not long before I'm racing through the chapters to find out what happens next.

One of the author's great gifts is her characterisation. It would be true to say she rarely draws especially likeable or heroic characters, which is either a fault or an accurate reflection of human nature, depending on your point of view. However, there is no one better at exposing and examining human frailties, weaknesses, compulsions and unpleasant impulses. In 'The Minotaur', the Cosway family are her central creations - representative of a dying breed of landed country families even in the 'Sixties (the novel's setting). They live an insular, claustrophobic life in their dark, overgrown old house, seething with petty jealousies and resentments which eventually explode into violence. Other notable figures include Felix Dunsford, artist and womaniser, who comes to the village and causes such disruption in the Cosways' lives. He is egotistical, unfeeling and amoral; yet, in a typically complex piece of characterisation, Barbara Vine occasionally gives us a glimpse of the aging, rather tragic and pathetic figure behind the mask. She constantly challenges the reader not to make hard and fast judgements by pulling the rug out from under us.

The Vine novels, even more so than the non-Wexford Ruth Rendell books, are what are often called 'slow-burn thrillers'. Those looking for quick, cheap thrills will not find them here. How much more satisfying it is to follow Vine's carefully constructed scenarios, expertly paced and plotted to gradually build hints of tension, until the suspense reaches fever pitch at the denouement. 'The Minotaur' is no exception, and proves a worthy addition to Barbara Vine's outstanding body of work.

To finish, I feel I must strongly take issue with the comments of the previous reviewer. Firstly, Vine is one of the most consistent writers around; over the past twenty years only 'Gallowglass' has truly disappointed. 'Grasshopper', far from being a failure, is one of her richest and most rewarding books, with perhaps the most nail-biting conlusion of any of them. I'd certainly rate it above 'No Night Is Too Long', which is an excellent, haunting book but not among her absolute best. Lastly, there are few writers who deal with homosexuality more sensitively or sympathetically than Ruth Rendell; many of her Barbara Vine books have touched on the subject. When one of the characters in this book suggests a middle-aged, unmarried clergyman might be an "invert", it is simply typical of the attitude to be found in a small country village in the 'Sixties. The matter is dropped because it has no further place in the story, other than perhaps to illustrate the old-fashioned, narrow minds of the Cosways. To read something untoward into the author's attitude based on this single piece of dialogue seems utterly absurd.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An achievement, 11 April 2007
By 
sam hrt (Lancs, England, Uk) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Minotaur (Paperback)
Who needs vampires & gore when you've got Vine to give you the chills? Loved Kerstin, she seemed so human that it was comforting. The sisters and the mother are just plain disturbing from their lack of compassion (except Zorah) for their brother/son. It felt so horrific to read that John had never felt the security of touch because of his fear brought about I suspected by his mother. This novel moved me in a way I never imagined because I think Vine's aim for this book was different from what I expected. I think she simply wanted to tell a story of a mentally handicapped man living in a world even more in desperate need than he is, and she wanted us to judge for ourselves. She maybe wanted us to answer 'What would we do in Kerstin's place?'
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Welcome back!, 10 Jun 2005
By A Customer
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This review is from: The Minotaur (Hardcover)
It's been a long, long wait since Barbara Vine's last novel (The Blood Doctor in 2002) but finally I can say it was well worth it. The Minotaur is one of her best, and that really is saying something with a writer of this calibre. Gallowglass is the only weak entry in the Vine canon, but The Minotaur definitely ranks among the greatest. Her gift for creating flawed or damaged characters, her psychological insights and her great compassion are all showcased here, as is her unrivalled ability to build a tense, chilling atmosphere. The fact that we know (roughly) what will happen is precisely what makes the tension build as the climax approaches, and there certainly IS a clever twist in the closing chapters, but Barbara Vine's novels have always been about CHARACTER and PSYCHOLOGY rather than sensational shocks, which is why she is held in such high esteem by critics and public alike. Highly recommended.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down, 23 May 2005
By 
P Crocker (London, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Minotaur (Hardcover)
I always enjoy Ruth Rendell/Barabra Vine and this was no exception. The book was totally addictive although I don't think the plot was particularly difficult to work out but it wsn't meant to be. The building up of the dark atmosphere, the frustrations of the characters and their unpleasant personlaities (apart fromt he narrator) was gripping. One of her best.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars dull and uneventful., 6 Mar 2006
By A Customer
This review is from: The Minotaur (Hardcover)
This novel contains ingredients we are familiar with: a large country manor, a family with secrets, a mysterious library, marriage proposals, a house fire - there are echoes of the Bronte sisters, Du Maurier, Austen, Agatha Christie - and all are acknowledged by the author.
BUT... this is very stale as a novel - and much of the mystery centres on the behaviour of a character, John, whose symptoms of 'mental illness' are easily diagnosed by readers with good general knowledge.
Vine tries hard to build up atmosphere and suspense, but I found it hard to empathise with any of the characters, including the narrator and though the novel was readable enough for me to finish, I closed it feeling like I'd wasted time.
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The Minotaur
The Minotaur by Barbara Vine (Paperback - 7 May 2009)
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