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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Girl Next Door
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...
Published 5 months ago by Damaskcat

versus
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed this book and it did hold me to the ...
I enjoyed this book and it did hold me to the end, but it's not quite what you might expect from Ruth Rendell. It's not a 'whodunnit?' and so has none of the thrill of working out who the murderer is, or solving a mystery. You know from the start who the guilty party is, so you're left with a slightly curious tale about a group of ageing individuals thrown together, who...
Published 4 months ago by FM


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5 of 5 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
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Octogenarian soap opera, 5 Nov. 2014
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This can only be described as a crime novel in the very loosest sense: in the opening chapter set in the early 1940s a man murders two people before burying their hands in a spot where children played. Now 60-70 years later, those children are all in their 70s and 80s - and it's their stories that we follow.

As other reviewers have said, Rendell seems torn about how to portray her octogenarian cast: sometimes they're made out to be lost in the past, barely understanding what email is, fretting about young people 'living in sin' and insisting on running up new clothes on a sewing machine... yet at other times they're romping in and out of each others' beds, walking out of marriages and forming new romantic alliances. The girl who was a femme fatale in her teens is, apparently, still one in her 80s.

There is barely any tension in the story and it's difficult at first to separate the characters as they don't have much, um, character. And yet, for all the niggles, I found this oddly compelling as a read. If you come to this expecting a crime novel you might well be disappointed. Better, perhaps, to treat this as a soap opera filled with over-70s: easy reading that somehow still seems to grip.
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15 of 17 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
(VINE VOICE)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 10 REVIEWER)   
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ruth Rendell but not quite as we know and expect her to be, 13 Nov. 2014
By 
Ruth Rendell has a long and distinguished career as a crime novelist, both of a series involving an ongoing inspector (Wexford) and as a crime writer of standalone books, without and ongoing investigator, And then there is her writing using another name, Barbara Vine. The Vine books (which generally prefer) are rather darker and rather more devoted to complex subterranean psychology. It could be said they are really psychological thrillers.

Curiously, Rendell's latest `Barbara Vine' did not quite `bite' with me the way she usually does.

This latest Rendell is also not quite expected Rendell. For those expecting a crime, and an investigation to unmask the perpetrator it will come as a bit of a surprise to find the crime, and the perpetrator, and indeed the motive, are all explained in the blurb.

In the 40s, a man murders his wife and her lover, does a bit of dismemberment and buries their hands in a biscuit tin. (he saw them holding hands, when he came home unexpectedly, which alerted him to what was going on). Local children, including his son, play in the tunnels in semi-rural Loughton (as it was then) The tunnels will serve as a hiding place for the hands

Jumping forward more than 60 years the community of children have gone their ways, though some have kept in contact. Their lives begin to connect again when building development work uncovers the hands and the tin, and a half-hearted cold cases enquiry begins. Half-hearted as it is pretty obvious that whoever did the deed, and on whom, is most likely to be dead. The children who played in the tunnels are either themselves dead or in their seventies and more.

What the `crime hook' does to is to reunite a group of very different elderly people, and `the hands' are what connects their lives together again, whether they directly affected some of the major players at the time (for example the murderer's son) or later, as the various at the time mysteries begin to be remembered and picked over.

What the book is really about is the passage of time, and, particularly, a look at the loves, lives and losses of a group of elderly people.

There are some things which are clearly `devices' and don't quite work - for example, the very burial of those hands, and the comparative ease with which the murderer got away with his murders, but I did get interested in the lives of the elderly group.

The exploration of the long uncoupling of marriages, and the enduring potency of first love, and, yes, the existence of sexuality and passionate feelings in a group of people whom most of us might think are `past it' proved more absorbing than I might have supposed.

I received this as a review copy from the publishers
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real treat, 7 Oct. 2014
This review is from: The Girl Next Door (Hardcover)
A massive thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for an ARC of this title.
I have been a fan of Ruth Rendell the day I read her first novel and for me she is one of the few authors whose books don’t get repetitive and samey which is no mean feat considering how many novels she has produced.
Her latest offering is less of a crime novel and more of a study in childhood friendships, love and passion. A pair of severed hands are found in a construction site, they have been there since the 1940’s. A group of children who used to play on the site reunite to mull over the find and old passions and secrets are reignited. What the author has captured perfectly for me is the thoughts and feelings of an older generation. The characters are similar ages to my parents and I found myself constantly wondering what they got up to when they were younger!
The real joy of this novel, like so many others that Ruth Rendell has written, is the location however. I was born and bought up in the area that she describes and spent many years living in Loughton so all the places described were so familiar it felt like she’d written it just for me, Alan and Rosemary’s evening constitutional used to be my walk home from work many years ago.
I loved this book and will certainly buy a copy for my mother-in-law who lived in Baldwins Hill for years and probably had no idea what was going on right under her nose.
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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
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Such accurate, vivid characters - you feel you already know some of them., 23 Oct. 2014
This review is from: The Girl Next Door (Hardcover)
I have always enjoyed novels from Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine whether it be her Inspector Wexford series or the sometimes dark stand alone novels. This one is a bit different as the mystery and its answers are all laid out in the first chapter and years later the nobody seems to know or care about the disappearance of two lovers. What follows is an excellent book about the interaction of a group of childhood friends reunited by a shock discovery. The characters and their interaction is highly plausible casting light on the tribulations, hopes & fears of the "silver generation". Come the finish ofthe book I felt I was disappointed with the ending but as I thought about it I realised that in fact I was disappointed it had ended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful insight into the minds of older people, 15 Oct. 2014
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I have read every book written by Ruth Rendell and this one does not disappoint. It gives a sympathetic insight into the minds and lives of 70 - 80 year olds. Ruth is the mistress of psychology and she is able to get right into thoughts of individuals. The mystery is just a tool which keeps the momentum going as she explores the way people react to different circumstances in their lives. She writes beautifully, clearly and without pretension. As a person who has not quite reached this age group I found it optimistic that life does not necessarily become dull and although there is always the thought that life will not be for ever there is still a spark for living while you can. Thank you Ruth Rendell.
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4.0 out of 5 stars but some of the disappointment expressed by some reviewers may relate to this being ..., 14 Jan. 2015
This review is from: The Girl Next Door (Hardcover)
Ruth Rendell is not so much a crime novelist as a novelist who writes about crime. Here, there was a murder committed many years before, but its treatment and resolution are almost perfunctory. Rendell is not very interested in this element of her story, rather she uses it as the basis for the exploration of the complex relationships between a group of people who grew up together in the war, and whose lives remain intertwined through the accident of the murder which acts as a catalyst. Thus a more accurate description might be that it is a novel that explores personalities and relationships, more psychological than crime. It does so very well, but some of the disappointment expressed by some reviewers may relate to this being a very different book than the one that they expected.

The book scores for me in two ways. First, the impression is that life in Loughton must have been, and is, very much as she depicts it. Secondly, the characters are persuasive and fully developed. One cannot but feel sorry for Alan, for example, who leaves his wife for a childhood sweetheart, only to find when he returns that his wife has moved on and no longer needs him. The book is not an easy read since it is complex in structure and the characters numerous. It is however in my view worth the effort

.
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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
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
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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