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3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
A New Lease Of Death: (A Wexford Case)
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on 2 October 2017
Book as described and excellent service
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Wexford is asked to meet Henry Archery who wants him to look again at the murder of Mrs Primero which happened fifteen years ago. Wexford believes the correct verdict was reached and as it was his first murder case in which he was the officer in charge he is naturally a bit prickly about it. Archery believes that the killer was wrongly convicted and sets out to prove it. In the process he opens rather too many cans of worms.

This is the second in the Wexford series and very good it is too. There is little overt violence and a great deal of interesting insights into all the characters. The psychological aspects of the murder and its effects on the people concerned are very well done and convincing. I like the police characters and the way Wexford and Burden interact.

I first read this series more than twenty years ago and it has stood the test of time very well indeed and the books bear re-reading.
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on 14 February 2014
'A New Lease Of Death' was published in 1967, the second of Rendell's Wexford novels. Whilst I always enjoy the nostalgic elements of these early novels, I do feel that this one suffers more than most from the passage of time. The motivations of some of its characters are rooted firmly in the times to the point where its quite difficult to even understand them, reading today! As a result of this perhaps, the principal character of Henry Archery starts out insufferable and ends up rather pathetic. There are very few likeable characters in this novel - Archery's son, his daughter-in-law-to-be (who should be sympathetic) and her rigidly respectable mother are all irritating. The denouement is ultimately unsatisfying and, really, the only things to save this book from a two star (in my opinion) are the Crilling duo, mother and daughter who are also unlikeable but are, at least, interesting. All Rendell's novels are worth a read but this, IMO, is not one of her best.
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on 21 August 2017
I honestly found the book confusing, when I went back to it in bed I could never remember where I had got to and the inspector hardly appeared at all. There seemed to be too many people in it. Maybe I`m getting old but I like a fairly strong story line.
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on 13 December 2013
Since Wexford and Burden are only guest characters in this novel, it seems misleading to call it a Wexford mystery, especially because the plot has little that can be identified as mystery. The story, such as there is, hinges on a series of highly coincidental meetings by rather conventional people and the outcome is predictable. There is even an improbable love encounter. Like other reviewers, I was put off by the dated view of moral issues and the apparent acceptance of the petty prejudices that were dated even at the time the novel was written (1969). This book is nothing like the later Ruth Rendell novels that have interesting characters, clever plots, and often deal with bigger moral questions.
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on 10 February 2014
Wexford is not actually the hero or main character in this book. The lead character is a middle aged vicar whose son wishes to marry the daughter of a convicted murderer. The vicar sets out to clear the fathers name so that his future grandchildren will be untainted.
I actually enjoyed this far more than I thought I would
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on 25 October 2009
Some books transcend time: the characters, the situations, the themes. You can read them now and "connect" comfortably. Most Agatha Christie stories do this. Probably the reason they're still read and loved, in English and in translation around the world, to this day.

Other books are firmly rooted in a period: whether by the language, by the characters' preoccupations or by the society they depict. I'm thinking this is one of the main ways in which Dorothy Sayers differs from Dame Agatha ... The reader has to make a bit more effort to get into the mindset of the story. There are other books, though, that require more than a bit of effort: Ruth Rendell's A NEW LEASE OF DEATH fits into this category: the story works within a time and mindset that is very much of the past, but one whose sensibilities are presented in way deeply alienating to the modern reader, oddly much more so than the class-obsessed sensibilities of the Sayers-Wimsey novels. What do I mean? Well, for this story to work, we must accept that having a child out of wedlock is shameful to a paralysing degree. We are also required to identify with a protagonist (Henry Archery, a vicar) who is against his son's marrying the woman he loves, because of something her old dad did (murder an old woman and hang for it).

The Rev Archery tootles about Kingsmarkham trying, not very effectively, to prove the murderer innocent of his crime, because only then will the dear old fusspot sanction the marriage! It's deeply irritating. We have to put up with this wretched man's neurotic struggle to support his son in spite of what his faith tells him is morally unacceptable. I think the problem here is that everyone (Wexford, the son, the young woman) just rolls over and indulges the man's need to KNOW THE TRUTH - and the reader is obliged to indulge this nonsense as well. The obvious hypocrisy is never challenged, is never questioned, is even RESPECTED, even by Wexford, who in later books is something of an iconoclast, bursting pomposity and exposing hypocrisy.

And the ending, without giving anything away, is so very unsatisfying that it made me want to throw the book across the room. I'd seen it coming from about the halfway mark and was disappointed to be proven right. Sentimental and ludicrous.

I am struggling to explain why I'm so cross about this. Agatha Christie used the conceit of nice-chap-worrying-about-new-girlfriend-having-"bad-blood"-because-mum-or-dad-was-a-killer time and time again as a reason for opening old cases (FIVE LITTLE PIGS springs to mind). Maybe Dame Agatha gets away with it because for her books it was only ever a device for kick starting what was going to be a juicy puzzle with a satisfying solution. And A NEW LEASE OF DEATH doesn't offer a decent puzzle, only a wet REsolution.

In conclusion, today's readers are simply a world away from stories that indulge rather than shake up old moralities and hypocrisy. This isn't the same Ruth Rendell who would later write the wonderful A DARK-ADAPTED EYE.

Plus points: it's a nice edition and it's pleasant enough to spend time in Wexford's company. Ultimately, though, it's an opportunity to be thankful for the Rendell oeuvre that came after this odd little book.
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on 23 August 2017
I like the Wexford books & as this was one I hadn't read decided to buy it & really enjoyed it.
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on 4 February 2017
I have always enjoyed poi eyed the Wexford stories and this one was just as enjoyable. A good read .
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on 14 July 2013
We listened to this book on CD during a long drive through France and it certainly helped the miles fly by. Ruth Rendell weaves an intricate plot with interesting characters and her turn of phrase is excellent. The book is well read. However the plot has some unsatisfactory elements. The main protagonist is not Inspector Wexford but Henry Archery, a country vicar, who is opposed to his son's choice of fiancee because she is the daughter of a murderer. If he can prove that her father is not a murderer then his son's marriage can go ahead. How potty is that? The denouement involves some massive leaps of unlikely deduction and is not adequately explained. It left this listener disappointed.
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