Customer Review

58 of 61 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wexford - and Rendell - back on form!, 28 Sept. 2009
This review is from: The Monster in the Box: (A Wexford Case) (Hardcover)
I came to this new Wexford title with some trepidation. I'd thought the last, Not in the Flesh, was pretty poor, with its shaky storyline and cringe-making subplot about female circumcision (cringe-making because of the quite condescending descriptions of the Somalian girl, not because of the procedure!).

However, I'm delighted to say that The Monster in the Box is a return to form. To be more correct, it's a return to form in some respects, something quite new in others. In what ways is it new? For a start, we go back in time to the days of Wexford's early career and the early stages of his relationship with Dora. These sections of the book are by no means boring filler: there's a particularly shocking scene in a Cornish cottage, for instance (and check out how Rendell plays with the reader's expectations with that one!). This story deals, too, with obsession, putting me in mind of some of the "straight" Rendell novels. It's also a particularly creepy book: the subject of Wexford's obsession, the monster he's trying to keep in the box, is particularly unnerving, almost a supernatural - or at least animalistic - figure.

The story is short, fast-paced, gripping, and in some ways bizarre (I enjoyed the runaway lion).

I think Rendell is better in this one on the race issues, though she's always sailed dangerously close to a condescending wind (so many of her asian characters have "noble" or "elegant" manners or profiles.)

One more point to note, and this is very strange. The novel seems to be set in the late 1990s. Can anyone explain why? I'm scratching my head about this one.

Advice for anyone disappointed by Wexford/Rendell's performance recently: give the pair another shot. This one's a really great performance.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 4 Oct 2009 12:27:57 BDT
Last edited by the author on 4 Oct 2009 12:28:44 BDT
I'm guessing the 90's setting is a nod to the fact that by 2009 Wexford would have spent about forty years as an Inspector (though thirty years is stretching it a bit too!).

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Oct 2009 22:02:39 BDT
Hi - I did wonder that, but if Wexford had been an Inspector in 1964 then it is, as you say, pushing it. It's odd, because I'm sure most readers are perfectly happy to suspend their disbelief about police characters' long careers (Dalgliesh was in a pretty senior position in 1962 and is still going strong!). It's the references to "the smoking ban that would come in a few years later" that got me puzzled - hardly integral to the plot. I'm sure she didn't need to fuss about it. Very odd.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Oct 2009 05:35:29 BDT
Also, in the epilogue it jumps three years into the future.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Oct 2009 12:39:12 BDT
I agree about the smoking ban sentence, it jarred and spoilt that scene for me. I don't like things to be set in such a near past as the 1990s as it requires certain assumptions to be revisited i.e. no dna etc, in crime drama anyway - that's why I don't enjoy such programmes on the tv. This is a different sort of narration, harking back. I am reviewing the audio book set for amazon vine, so am listening to it all now.

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Oct 2009 22:24:38 BDT
I'm reading A New Lease of Death in its new imprint. It was published in 1969 and seems to be set in the mid-Sixties. Wexford is ... ahem ... 55!

I still can't fathom the late-Nineties setting of TMITB ... we really don't need to believe Wexford is ageing in real time. We really don't!

Posted on 28 Oct 2009 20:48:50 GMT
Susie says:
Hi-

Nice review.

I'm looking forward to giving Rendell another chance.
I recently listened to an audio, Harm Done or something like that. I was so disappointed, it just went on and on.

But this sounds good.
Thanks
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