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Not Wexford's finest hour
on 24 June 2014
As I continue my re-read of all Ruth Rendell's Wexford novels, I come to the very mixed bag that is 'End In Tears'. For me, this one starts out well with an intriguing plot and (initially) interesting and believable characters. As always with the Wexford novels (at least the later ones) there is an Issue and here it is surrogacy. The Wexford Family Subplot ties in with this because least loved daughter Sylvia (where has Sheila been recently?) is pregnant too. I always find these particular subplots disappointing because the outcome is always so predictable. I understand that Rendell wants us to feel involved with Wexford and his family but these bits, for me at least, are often the weakest parts of the novel. Even Dora Wexford is rather unlikeable here, being uncharacteristically selfish - never mind, it all works out well for her!
I don't mind the ridiculously PC Hannah Goldsmith too much - I suspect that we are supposed to find her ridiculous, certainly at the start of the novel. I do think that her budding romance takes up far too much time. She is also at the heart of what is supposed to be a tense scene towards the end of the novel but, for me at least, is just too melodramatic to swallow - the villain and his henchmen behave and speak EXACTLY as you would expect such cliched characters to do; its almost funny! The action scene at the bridge doesn't really work either. I suppose that is my biggest problem with this novel - when it moves away from the domestic into the world of 'organised crime'. I think Rendell does better with the former.
I was fairly satisfied with the final denouement (although, as usual, Wexford takes far too long getting to what is supposed to be the 'big reveal') and most of it made sense - elaborately constructed alibis aside! For me then, this is quite a patchy novel. There are some good bits and some good characters but also quite a lot of dull and/or poorly constructed characters. As often happens with the Wexford novels, we just don't get to spend enough time with some of the main players to really understand them - and that's a pity.