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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this - but not your usual Rendell mystery
Brief summary and review, no spoilers:

The story starts out during the war years in the 1940's in a small town in rural England. We are introduced to a man named "Woody" who is a very typical Ruth Rendell character - he is a complete sociopath.

From the very start we find out that Woody is married to a woman named Anita who is having an...
Published 9 days ago by sb-lynn

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written but by no means 'Vintage Rendell'
I love Ruth Rendell books most of the time, but this one isn't really a thriller or 'whodunnit' we know the answer to that one in the first chapter. One has to get ones head around all the characters, especially the children who played in the underground tunnels during the war, and now take centre stage as OAPs in the present day. Frankly I think a 'whose who' separate...
Published 1 day ago by bornineltham


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this - but not your usual Rendell mystery, 12 Sep 2014
By 
sb-lynn (Santa Barbara, California United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Girl Next Door (Hardcover)
Brief summary and review, no spoilers:

The story starts out during the war years in the 1940's in a small town in rural England. We are introduced to a man named "Woody" who is a very typical Ruth Rendell character - he is a complete sociopath.

From the very start we find out that Woody is married to a woman named Anita who is having an affair with another man. Woody catches them together and kills them and chops off their hands and puts them in a biscuit tin. He buries the tin in a series of tunnels that are the playground for a lot of the village kids.

After this quick start to the book, we then dive into the main body of the story which takes place during modern times. While doing construction, some workers find the biscuit tin with the hands and it is given to Scotland Yard. The inspector assigned to the case is not happy about getting this old, old case for a variety of reasons, not the least because the chances of finding the killer are remote and finding him alive have even worse odds. The detective isn't even sure a murder occurred.

When the kids from tunnels (now in their late 70's and 80's) read about the hands being found, they contact the detective to let them know what they know, which at the start isn't much. Over the course of the story we will gradually find out what has happened to Woody and just who's hands are in that tin along with Anita's.

What makes me say that this isn't your typical Rendell mystery is that the mystery isn't the draw or even the focus of the book. I am a HUGE Rendel/Vine fan and have read each and every one of her books. No one does quirky, sociopathic characters better than she does and she often has a great twist or two in the story as well.

In the book, the heart of the story, so to speak, is in getting to know these old people and getting inside their heads. Ms. Rendell is obviously writing what she knows here and I felt like I understood what it's like to be that age. These are not stereotypical literary old grandmothers or grandfathers - these are fully developed flesh and blood characters who still want to be happy and have good lives. They matter. They are the focus of the story and they can have the same feelings and emotions and hopes of those of youth.

I loved the way she showed them falling in love and behaving like those much younger - and their kids assuming they must have dementia - and the way she shows that at that age, death is ever on their minds and how they must deal with the sadness of losing so many contemporaries.

I thought this book had a bit of a slow-start (and there were lots of names to remember,) but then it absolutely took off for me and I just loved it.

Brava Ms. Rendell. I'm such a fan.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Girl Next Door, 17 Aug 2014
By 
Damaskcat (UK) - See all my reviews
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The reader knows who has committed the murder from the start of this well written crime novel so it isn't a traditional 'who done it' and there is very little input from the police investigating the crime at a later date. The book primarily concerns a group of friends who were children at the time of the murder - near the end of World War II - and how the discovery of two severed hands in a biscuit tin sixty years later affects them.

It is fairly obvious who one of the hands belongs to but the reader must wait until almost the end of the book to find out who is the other victim. I thought the characters were well developed and the author paints a vivid picture of their lives as adults. I thought it was interesting how the dynamics between the group changed and developed as the discovery of the hands leads to them talking about what happened that Summer when the murders probably took place.

If you're looking for a conventional crime novel then this may not be for you but if you're looking for an excellent novel about how people change - and don't change - during their lifetime then this may be of interest to you. Whether or not you enjoy crime novels this is worth reading for its development of character and the way small events can have huge repercussions at the time as well as many years later. I received a free copy of this book for review purposes from NetGalley.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Girl Next Door, 15 Aug 2014
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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This novel, more literary than traditional crime fiction, veers between the present and the past. During the Second World War a group of children in Loughton, Essex, played together in some underground tunnels they found and renamed ‘the qanats.’ Nobody really remembers why, but time has passed and the group of children have grown up, grown old and, mostly, dispersed. However, the discovery of a pair of severed hands, buried in a biscuit tin so long ago, now brings many of those who played there so long ago back together again. Daphne Jones, three times married and still glamorous, Michael Winwood, whose father chased them from the tunnels and Lewis Newman, both now widowed, childhood sweethearts Alan Norris and Rosemary Wharton and the Batchelors – of whom George, Stanley and Norman are still alive.

The police are asked to investigate the crime – of which the reader is already aware of both victims and murderer . However, this book is more about the impact of the discovery and of unearthing old memories on those involved. In many ways this is a poignant and touching read – of both how age limits and frees us. It reunites old lovers, wreaks huge changes and forces people to confront their loss and childhood traumas. Ruth Rendell manages to make all the characters sympathetic, so you really care about what happens to them. Despite the length of time between the crime and the investigation, making even the police involved cynical about finding a conclusion, there is little doubt that confronting what happened at that time will help solve unanswered questions, make some characters doubt the way they are living their lives and, in some cases, make enormous changes. I really enjoyed this novel, even though it was not a traditional ‘whodunnit’ and it made me question why I have not read more of Ruth Rendell’s novels. Luckily, that is something I can, and do, intend to rectify. Lastly, I received a copy of this book from the publishers, via NetGalley, for review.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ruth Rendell the Queen of Crime, 14 Aug 2014
By 
C. Bannister (Jersey, CI) - See all my reviews
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At the beginning of this book we meet the murderer, we know one of the victims and we also know why the murder was committed. I found the character of the murderer and his victim the sketchiest of all, he seemed a little one dimensional but the story soon flips to the discovery of the hands in a biscuit tin found seventy years later.

The story almost appears to change genre with the discovery as we meet the now elderly characters who at the time of the murder were young children living in the area. These children had played in foundations of an unbuilt house inventing games under the ground. The story then concentrates on these characters as some of them meet after many years apart to help the police investigating (unwillingly) the provenance of the hands. These meetings have consequences that couldn’t have been foreseen as in the last years of their lives each of the characters have different challenges to face.

Ruth Rendell does what she does best, she examines the motives of these people making the subtle point that even in old age, people make mistakes, they still learn things about themselves and they can change the way they behave. There are some lovely people including the dear Mrs Moss who used to clean for the murderer as well as the misguided and the downright rotten.

The descriptions of Loughton bought the place to life and the plot was well executed although I found that in parts the looking back at how people said things a little repetitive at times but it did underline the enormous changes that someone in their late seventies would have seen over their lifetime.

I enjoyed this book although it wasn’t quite what I expected but it was less entertaining for that.
I’d like to thank the publishers, Random House, who gave me a copy of this book to review ahead of the publication date of 14 August 2014
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark and satisfying, 18 Aug 2014
By 
J. H. Bretts "jerard1" - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Girl Next Door (Hardcover)
A horrific find in modern-day Essex:the remains of two severed hands dating back from the 1940s...

This is the first book I have read by Ruth Rendall and I am very impressed on a number of fronts. Firstly, although you know who the murderer is right from the start, plus their motivation, Rendall has created such an interesting group of characters and situations that you have to keep reading to the end. Secondly, the focus of the story is largely on old people and their struggles, and Rendall seems to understand them so well, which is rare in modern English fiction. Thirdly, although you know a lot right from the beginning, there are still plenty of surprises to build to a very satisfying denouement in the final chapters. When I finished it I went straight onto an earlier novel by Rendall, the classic Kissing the Gunner's Daughter. This is just as good in its own way. I highly recommend it.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 65 and going strong, 16 Aug 2014
By 
This review is from: The Girl Next Door (Hardcover)
SOME of us have spent the best part of 50 years working on that one great novel that will make us a mint and buy us a Marbella apartment. In that time, crime queen Ruth Rendell has knocked out 65 – and this latest one is every bit as good as her first, the highly collectable From Doon With Death, way back in 1964.

She’s famous for her Sussex-based Inspector Wexford stories, which started her career, but this book’s set in Essex, close to her actual childhood stomping ground.

It kicks off in wartime with kids larking about in tunnels under a house. These are important. It’s where a complete and utter psycho places a biscuit tin containing the hands of his wife and her fancy man after he’s topped them. He sets about burning all the rest of the evidence but he’s spotted by one of the kids – who keeps what she’s seen to herself for 70-odd years.

Here in the present day builders come across the tin with its grim contents and call in the rozzers. The news brings together the bunch of now OAPs who played there as kids and could now help the probe. Through them we learn a whole lot more than whodunnit. We get to know what time does to memories, to relationships, to the world around us, to our minds.
That’s because Rendell’s always been damn good at getting us inside the heads of her characters – how they think despite the way they act and look – and by extention, ourselves, if we cared to probe harder.

Given she’s in her ninth decade she’d be forgiven for churning out a bog standard mystery, yet The Girl Next Door comes across as insightful, fresh, new and terrifying as anything else around.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent as usual, 29 Aug 2014
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I love Ruth Rendell. She writes as though she is observing everything from high-up but never judging. Her characters always seem a bit mad but at the same time she makes me wonder if we are all like that and it's just that we are viewing ourselves from the inside whereas Ruth Rendell is viewing us from the outside. Whatever, this is a brilliant read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars She keeps up such high standards..., 17 Sep 2014
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This review is from: The Girl Next Door (Hardcover)
Ruth Rendell continues to turn out fabulous books which keep you hooked to the very last page! Although you know the "who" very early on the story is brilliant - and you just want to keep turning the pages! Characters are totally believable and the descriptive writing is superb.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Well written but by no means 'Vintage Rendell', 20 Sep 2014
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This review is from: The Girl Next Door (Paperback)
I love Ruth Rendell books most of the time, but this one isn't really a thriller or 'whodunnit' we know the answer to that one in the first chapter. One has to get ones head around all the characters, especially the children who played in the underground tunnels during the war, and now take centre stage as OAPs in the present day. Frankly I think a 'whose who' separate chart should have been publised so that readers could keep tags on all the names. Ms Rendell writes very well, and gets right into the minds of her characters but this book is not vintage, by a long way. 'The Girl Next Door' herself only features as much as the other characters, and half way through I wondered where this was going. Frankly rather disappointing.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Girl Next Door, 14 Aug 2014
By 
Susie B - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Girl Next Door (Hardcover)
No Spoilers.

We know right from the outset of Ruth Rendell's latest novel who the murderer is, and we also know who one of his victims is, so this story is not a 'whodunnit' and, interestingly, it's not really an investigation into why the deed was committed either. In 1944, John Winwood, a very attractive man, was married to the equally attractive red-haired Anita. When he discovered his wife was having an affair, John killed her and her lover and severed one of each of his victim's hands. He secreted the hands in a biscuit tin and hid the tin in the foundations of a house not yet built, then managed to dispose of the bodies without, it first appears, any witnesses to the disposal. (No spoilers, we learn all of this and more in the first chapter of the novel). Before John Winwood buried the tin in the foundations of the building, the tunnels of earth which made up the foundations had been discovered by his son, Michael, and by Daphne, the girl next door, and a group of their friends, who had been playing in the tunnels and using them as a secret den.

Almost seventy years later, developers excavating the area find the tin box containing the two skeletal hands, and when the police officer on the case is contacted by one of the children - now in their seventies - the group is brought together in an unconventional reunion, where they discuss the gruesome discovery and wonder who the victims are. At this reunion are widower Michael Winwood (whose father, John, at almost 100 years old is still alive and living in a very expensive rest home); George Batchelor and his wife Maureen; George's two brothers; attractive divorcee Daphne; and Alan, who has been married for fifty years to the rather dull and homely Rosemary. When Alan meets Daphne, whom he has not seen for decades, and with whom he once had a passionate affair, a whole chain of events is set in motion - but what about the murders? Do the police and our group of septuagenarians finally discover who committed the murders and placed the severed hands in the tin? Obviously I have to leave that for prospective readers to discover for themselves.

As commented previously, this novel is not a conventional 'whodunnit' and although John Winwood could be described as a psychopath, it's not really a Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine psychological suspense thriller either. After a stark description of the calculated murders, the author focuses on the members of the group and how the discovery affects them; the story also examines how the relentless march of time has encroached upon the 'children' of the tunnels - there is constant mention of how things have changed for our group of seventy-somethings, how they struggle to be politically correct, how many of the expressions they use are now out-dated, how society and morals have changed and - particularly in one character's case - how time is running out and whether one should grasp at a chance of happiness before it is too late. It's also about being careful what you wish for. And then there is Michael, a true victim of his father's neglect, who was brought up by his aunt Zoe, and who when he visits his father in his rest home (where John has a copy of Durer's 'Praying Hands' in his room) is told: "I never liked you. I never liked your mother either." But it is Daphne's history that is the most shocking - and the author has delivered a rather bold twist in her tale, with a revelation that will surprise many of her readers. So, in summary, although this book was not quite what I was expecting, and a large amount of the narrative focused rather heavily on how the world had changed for her septuagenarian cast, I was pulled into this story from the first pages and despite it not being my favourite of the author's many excellent novels, I was certainly interested and involved enough to take time out to read the whole book in one sitting.
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