Ruth Rendell continues to be a passionate supporter of the short story. Her latest collection, "Piranha to Scurfy" and Other Stories
, contains quite her most varied forays into the form yet, with a beguilingly disparate selection of tales, united by the usual cold-eyed Rendell narrative voice. The title story (the longest in the book, and a reference to an encyclopaedia entry) is something of a departure for Rendell: although her work has always been rich in elements of the macabre, this is her first full-scale horror tale, and a curious concoction it is. Taking equal parts of Stephen King (of whom a suave surrogate appears in the piece), the great English ghost story writer MR James and Rendell's own individual ground of twisted psychology, the tale is ostensibly an atmospheric study in burgeoning mental terror. A lonely and socially maladroit man finds himself driven to the point of madness when the demon of a bestselling horror tale appears to infiltrate itself into his daily life. But the real agenda of the tale seems to be a kind of proxy revenge by Rendell on obsessively nit-picking readers: the doomed protagonist, Ribbon, spends his time sending crushing letters to writers pointing out their errors of grammar and lapses in style. It's hard not to feel Rendell's relish at his horrific fate, and perhaps critical readers will be given pause. The characterisation has all the dark fascination of Rendell's best work, and if that final shiver of horror isn't quite delivered, Rendell enthusiasts will be more than diverted. The other tales are equally compelling, with The Professional
and The Astronomical Scarf
being particularly well turned. There is also a pleasingly steady progression of mood throughout the tales: one never senses that these pieces have been casually thrown together by an editor. And Rendell demonstrates time again that she knows how to keep the reader transfixed. --Barry Forshaw
"Gloriously creepy. . . . Each beautifully crafted story...quietly builds in momentum and tension. . . . Cleverly chilling." "--Chicago Tribune"
"Like a wine that at first seems familiar and then leaves you with a profoundly different, delicious aftertaste, "Piranha to Scurfy" leaves you savoring what you've just imbibed for some time." --"The Boston Globe"
"Rendell at her best-subtle, insightful, disturbing and utterly mesmerizing." "--The""Buffalo News
"Moves gracefully between mystery and macabre." -- "The News & Observer"
Gloriously creepy. . . . Each beautifully crafted story...quietly builds in momentum and tension. . . . Cleverly chilling. " Chicago Tribune"
Like a wine that at first seems familiar and then leaves you with a profoundly different, delicious aftertaste, "Piranha to Scurfy" leaves you savoring what you ve just imbibed for some time. --"The Boston Globe"
Rendell at her best subtle, insightful, disturbing and utterly mesmerizing. "--The" "Buffalo News
Moves gracefully between mystery and macabre. -- "The News & Observer""