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on 29 May 2017
I just love all Ruth Rendell books and this doesn't disappoint.Cuddle up and give yourself a treat.She draws characters that live on the page and the TV series doesn't really capture Wexford as she writes him.He is more grumpy and far more intetesting on the pagd
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on 27 July 2015
Did not like this book was not up to normal standard for Rendell.
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on 26 June 2017
Very good book had me gripped from the start
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This was first published in 1969 and it shows in its evocation of a very different world: where having a lift put into a police station is A Very Big Deal, where even 'good' characters like Wexford can be pompously misogynistic, where buying a fridge or a 'record player' or a washing machine is firm evidence of wrong-doing on the part of working-class characters, where a young man in his 20s wears dentures... I partly enjoyed this slice of social history but found Rendell's snide snobbery overbearing at times, particularly the way in which she portrays class.

That said, once we've wrestled with the social commentary, there's an intriguing story underneath with some excellent plotting to link a crude murder of a best man the night before a wedding with a car-crash, a burnt body and a woman just coming out of a coma.

I listened to the audio-book and found Robin Bailey's voice very, very elitist and 'upper-class' (which does allow him to get in what seems to be Rendell's own sneering at uppity lorry-drivers and left-wing girlfriends...). That aside, this is a short, 'old-school' detective story: good plotting, interesting if jarringly unpleasant social commentary, and lots of old-fashioned detecting.
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...with my continual rantings on the brilliance of Ruth Rendell. In my quest to ascertain that every Ruth Rendell book here is reviewed, though, you'll be hearing more from me yet, I'm afraid.
As I'm lazy, I'm just going to copy out the official blurb (plus, I can't say it any better):
Jack Pertwee was getting married in the morning.
Charlie Hatton drove his lorry eleven hours down from Leeds just to be there. Charlie was Jack's best friend and he would be his best man. When the two parted at the Kingsbrook bridge, jack felt as though his life was just beginning. But for Charlie Hatton, life was about to end.
Detective Chief Inspector Wexford wondered why the fatal Fanshawe car accident kept upsetting his concentration on the Hatton murder. There couldn't be a connection. Fanshawe had been a wealthy stockbroker, Charlie Hatton a cocky little lorry driver with some illegal dealing.
But was it just a coincidence that Hatton had been killed on the day following that of Mrs Fanshawe's regaining consciousness?
On first read, several years ago when I was about 12, this book didn't strike me as one of the greatest Wexford's. On re-reading it, my estimation is much, much improved. The Best Man to Die is another excellent Wexford novel from Rendell's early period. It doesn't have the wonderful, vicious darkness of Wolf to the Slaughter or the unique quality of Some Lie or Some Die, but it remains a very very excellent and clever mystery that will likely confound even the most practiced of crime-fiction readers. It did me, even though I had read it before! I could remember, just about, who, but for the life of me I had no idea why, until Rendell revealed all in one of those excellent last-revelation chapters that she does so so well.
At this point in the series, neither Wexford nor Burden had begun to fully develop quite yet; primarily these early books are plot novels and character foible novels. Still, Wexford is certainly beginning to show hints of how interesting he is, and his family life begins to take on the wonderful life it does later in the series. Here, actually, Wexford seems slightly out-of-character; he's less patient, possibly. Less tolerant perhaps? Certainly, he wasn't quite as warm as in many of the other books, but his skills as a detective are borne out wonderfully in an excellent mystery.
The Best Man to Die (again, one of Rendell's treasures that have been left out of print. I doubt you'll be able to get this anywhere except second-hand) is a great, impeccably written mystery. Rendell dissects her characters motivations marvellously. I would recommend this, of course, very highly indeed, but I don't think it's really the place to begin reading Wexford.
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on 23 October 2009
It's as good as any Wexford story but first check if you don't have it already. It was first published in 1987, not in 2009 as the site more or less suggests.
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on 8 December 2009
The four stars are for the tale, not for the edition.

This is a classic Wexford murder mystery. Okay, so it's dated, but in a quaint, inoffensive way: note the fascination for novel technology such as a washing machine or a lift! I've said in another review that these new editions of the early Wexfords are very attractive: moody cover shots, nice larger-than-usual size, sturdy yet elegant little editions. Two gripes, though - the second more important than the first ...

First, I really don't like the bland strap-lines on the covers. This novel's is: "nothing is ever quite what it seems" ... banal, or what? Come on, PR department, make an effort!

Second, the book is full of typos. I lost count of the number of sentences that started with a lower-case letter. Words were jumbled: "on" instead of "no" and vice-versa. "May" was misspelled as "Mar" in one important passage - potentially very misleading in a detective story! And in another place, "she" has the "s" missing! - again, very confusing and pretty downright shoddy.

Overall, certainly worth a look, but proofreading would be appreciated ...
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on 3 February 2012
The Inspector Wexford series are classics of Engliish detective fiction and if you have not enjoyed them yet, then I cannot recommend them too highly. Ruth Rendell writes with psychological depth and insight and the detective puzzles are adroitly woven into studies of contemporary British life and society. The only thing that spoils this series is the slipshod proof-reading; the publishers obviously could not be bothered to employ someone with an eye for a silly typo. Pity, and shame on Arrow Books!
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on 14 February 2014
'The Best Man To Die' was published in 1969 and is the fourth in the Wexford series. Wexford himself takes centre stage here for the first time and we get our first proper introductions to his (as yet nameless) wife and his daughter Sheila (already irritating). Rendell's portrayals of the working classes have been hitherto rather unsuccessful. In 'Wolf To The Slaughter' we had two charwomen and two lags, one of whom was even called 'Knobby'! Here she extends her range and although we are still in the realms of working men's clubs and avid socialists, her characters have more substance. Personally, I think she could have left out the rather embarrassing parallels between Jack & Charlie and Jonathan & David but otherwise, much better! As usual, the middle classes are better drawn and I especially like the gleefully malicious portrait of the unpleasant Mrs Fanshawe who really ought to be a character who has our sympathy given her circumstances!

So far, so good but for me, the problem with 'Best Man' is the plot itself. This was one of the few times where I felt slightly cheated. Its not that the identity of the killer is difficult to work out - I think most readers stand a fair chance of guessing it from about half way through when the private hospital is introduced, but this is one of the few times in a Rendell novel where we hardly get the know the person in question. That always feels like cheating to me. Anyway, not one of her best!
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on 18 August 2015
I was about to buy this but I'm not going to now as I know it would irritate me no end if it's full of typos. I find that kind of thing a complete lack of respect to the reader
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