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4.3 out of 5 stars
26
A Guilty Thing Surprised: Even the dead have something to hide...
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on 19 November 2017
Excellent
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on 12 April 2014
I returned to crime fiction in the 1980s, in my 30s, after a long period away. I had read Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes when I was much younger but it was PD James and Ruth Rendell who rekindled my interest in this genre. In this book beautiful Elizabeth Nightingale, a popular, wealthy woman is found murdered near her home. In solving the crime Wexford, Burden and the readers meet interesting, different but well-drawn characters in beautifully described settings, high and low. As in her first novel the author gives clues in a literary fashion, which I never pick up because of my lack of knowledge of English literature, I'm ashamed to say. The stars of this novel are the wonderful old gossip, Lionel, and William Wordsworth. I am beginning to think that Burden is there for comic relief - not my favourite.
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on 23 September 2004
This is an early Detective Chief Inspector Wexford book - published in 1970. The fascination for me, was to discover the start of that strong relationship he has with Detective Inspector Mike Burden - his now long-time sidekick. The story now appears slightly old-fashioned, in it's concept of 'Rich man in the castle, poor man at the gate', but is nonetheless a good, strong mystery.
Elizabeth Nightingale - the rich man's wife - is found murdered - the usual suspects abound - the seemingly uxurious husband, the disgruntled gardener - but we are in Ruth Rendell country, and nothing is ever quite what it seems!
The author seems to be able to ally the normal problems that the main protagonists deal with and the same sort of problem, spiraling out of control in the hands of the deeply disturbed. Vintage Ruth Rendell!
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VINE VOICEon 18 February 2006
I don’t think this is one of Rendell’s best Wexford novels but it does have a good plot, a diverse cast of characters and some thought-provoking material. If you enjoy Wexford novels then you’ll be missing out if you don’t read this one eventually, but it isn’t one of my favourites. The best part of the book was the ending, which I found to be very surprising and shocking.
This time Wexford is investigating the murder of Elizabeth Nightingale, living a dull, well-off life in the country with her husband Quentin. Their marriage is completely passionless and sexless, but someone reacts violently enough to Elizabeth to murder her on one of her evening walks in the forest. Then along come Detectives Wexford and Burden to crack the case and drag up the psychology behind the characters.
Perhaps one of the reasons why I’m not raving about this novel is because the type of characters shown in it are my least favourite – a wealthy upper class couple, their servants and wealthy, upper class friends. I much prefer a detective novel that focuses on normal people rather than the Master and Mistress of the house and their stereotypical rough and uneducated working class servants. This certainly isn’t a side of England that I recognise anymore and Rendell’s newer Wexford novels reflect this, tending to focus on all different kinds of people in the social scale without being stereotypical. One of my favourite characters was Sean Lovell, whose thwarted ambitions to become a singer were strangely touching, particularly when Wexford overhears him pretending to be a popstar in his shed (we’ve all done it, haven’t we? :-) )
The novel also looks at what it means to be a woman in 1970s Britain. Unfortunately, the females in this novel are probably the weakest characters, such as a housewife who has given up her job to devote herself to her husband who doesn’t really seem to like her anyway and a rather silly Swedish au pair. One of the themes of the book seems to be ‘what makes a good woman?’. What strikes me is that in this book the men act pretty much as they like without anybody commenting on their behaviour, but every aspect of each woman is judged and examined. It made interesting, if frustrating, reading.
Overall, a good book with a brilliant ending. Due to the publication date of this novel (early 70s) it is rather old-fashioned, but the psychology is still relevant.
JoAnne
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on 14 February 2014
The early Wexford novels are always fun because they give such an excellent snapshot of the time when they were written. English village life in the late sixties is nicely documented here from the upper middle class gentry (still desperately clinging on to servants) to the boys' schools still teaching Latin and Greek to the forelock tugging working classes. Elizabeth Nightingale is beaten to death on a windy summers night near her posh home. Was it her ineffectual husband? Her extravagantly strange brother? Her awkward sister-in-law? Or even the lovelorn local boy with daydream ambitions? 'Guilty Thing' is a good, average and fairly typical murder mystery in the Agatha Christie vein. Its perfectly decent but not terribly exciting. The characters are all fairly stock subjects and there are some astonishing stereotypes, perhaps especially the Dutch au-pair. Personally, despite being a short novel, I also think it goes on a bit too long. The whole blackmail subplot is really unnecessary and I suspect most readers stand a good chance at guessing the identity of the murderer long before that kicks in. Its also unusual for Rendell to introduce a character such as Lionel Marriott whose sole purpose is to provide lengthy screeds of back story because she could, presumably, not think of another way to give us that information. This is one of the Wexfords that deals with a potentially shocking subject but, in the event, it isn't very shocking at all. All Rendell novels are enjoyable but, for me, this is not one of her best.
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on 15 September 2016
GREAT it is wonderful
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on 5 September 2016
A good book easy listening
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on 18 July 2017
Excellent book well worth a read
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on 4 July 2014
This is the first Ruth Rendell book that I've been disappointed with. It wasn't as gripping as her Wexford books usually are. I found myself not really caring about who the killer was or why they did it. Hopefully this was just a blip and the later books in the series will be better.
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on 12 January 2013
I am an avid reader of Ruth Rendell's and am always ready to go onto the next book. They completelty intrugue me!
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