Top critical review
A mixed bag...
on 13 March 2014
'Shake Hands Forever' is an interesting departure in the Wexford series in that it is less of a whodunnit than a 'whydunnit'. There is a small twist at the end but, frankly, astute readers should see it coming WAY before Wexford does! It starts well and there are some really excellent character portraits - especially Hathall and his mother (you can tell that Rendell really enjoyed writing HER) and the whole thing is quite intriguing...but then it all fizzles out and the second half of the book becomes very samey and often uninteresting as Wexford stalks his suspect around London. The 'why' in the whydunnit is ultimately rather unsatisfying and it doesn't help that a major element of it doesn't even begin to surface until nearly the end of the book - it seems 'tacked on'.
Then there is the subplot involving the dubious charms of over-ripe rose Nancy Lake, who attempts to seduce the now slim-line Wexford. I think that we are supposed to like her but it doesn't work - at least for me - and I could never believe in the relationship. I always enjoy Rendell's Wexford books and I enjoyed this one, but compared to the best ('From Doon With Death', 'Sleeping Life', 'Veiled One', 'Gunner's Daughter' and 'Simisola') its a bit of a disappointment.