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on 25 August 2013
I didn't expect to like the new Inspector Wexford novel. The Vault was pretty dire - hard to swallow and generally dull. But No Man's Nightingale is a jolly enough tale, compelling if not gripping, with some entertaining characters. I liked Jeremy Legge, proto-sociopath, and there was more than a sprinkling of personality disorders kicking around.

Ruth Rendell has always been pretty dodgy on race and racism. She's seems at times fixated on it, but somehow always misses the mark. She condescends grotesquely to ethnic minority characters: their colour is their defining feature and they're invariably beautiful, noble, elegant and exotic. She means well, I'm sure of it, but it's painful. Having said that, this book is by no means the worst example of this inverted racism (Not in the Flesh is the worst for that I think).

I'm so fond of Wexford, though. I've grown up with him. I would love to drink sherry with him and Dora. I'll forgive a lot where he's concerned. I'll forgive, for instance, the ludicrous manner in which he becomes part of this investigation; I'll forgive his "hunches" - always a cop out in detective fiction.

A few typos in the Kindle edition, but nothing major apart from the bizarre copy-editing blooper over the name of the supermarket.

All in all, hang your disbelief at the door and you'll enjoy a decent read.

Three-and-three-quarters stars ...
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on 11 December 2013
I do believe that I have read everything in print by Ruth Rendell, and have always looked forward to anything new from her. However, I have to say that if this book was my first experience of her writing, her name would be well down the list of "read later" on my local library's website. What helped was my familiarity and liking for Wexford (enhanced by the great job done by actor George Baker in the television series).
As someone else mentioned, this did seem to be somewhat old-fashioned, and could well have taken place forty years ago.
There is one large error that I thought I should mention - Wexford sets out from home on foot through the snow, then on leaving the destination is also on foot (by which time we have arrived at page 196), spots Clarissa and offers her a lift home in his car. I don't know how this got past whoever reads the book before it goes to print, but it added to my not-quite-satisfied feel about the book.
Yes, I will continue to read whatever Ms. Rendell writes, it wouldn't feel right for me not to do so - but I am guessing that my expectation of first-class well-crafted writing may be lowered.
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on 3 September 2013
I have always enjoyed Ruth Rendell's Inspector Wexford novels and the dynamic between Wexford and his friend and sidekick Mike Burdon. One of the most entertaining aspects of these books for me is the ever evolving lives of Wexford and Burden's families. I was, however, very disappointed in Wexford's last two outings i.e. The Monster in the Box and The Vault (which related back to a much earlier novel, A Sight for Sore Eyes). Therefore it was with some trepidation that I decided to buy the latest Inspector Wexford novel but I was pleasantly surprised. While not quite as good as her earliest efforts, No Man's Nightingale is a return to form for Ms. Rendell.

Briefly, Sarah Hussein, a female vicar of mixed parentage who is also a single mother with a teenage daughter, is discovered strangled in the Vicarage, by garrulous cleaner Maxine Sams who works for both Reg and Dora Wexford and Dr. and Mrs. Crocker; while this might bring to mind Agatha Christie's Murder in the Vicarage, there is little, if any, similarity between the two novels. Wexford is quite recently retired and when his friend Burden, now leading the murder inquiry, asks if he might like to assist with the case as an unpaid adviser, Wexford jumps at the chance. Wexford's love of puzzle-solving and his genuine curiosity about people is a decided advantage as he accompanies official police officers in their investigations.

It is true that Wexford does wattle his "unofficial role" to death in his musings but while irritating, this is probably quite realistic as I would imagine anyone in his situation would realize the precariousness of their position and have the unofficial nature of their brief constantly in mind. I found Maxine's malapropisms less convincing and more annoying as, while I have come across people like Mrs. Malaprop, I found the examples in this novel a bit hard to swallow. For example, "anonimal" letters instead of annonymous letters and "ceasers" for seizures and this from a lady who in practically the same sentence has used the word "contusion" for bruise. I have to say that this did not quite ring true with me.

Yet this is just a minor personal quibble and overall the book is a most enjoyable read as even though I found the ending somewhat disappointing I certainly enjoyed the journey to the denouément and that for me is often the most important element of the reading experience. As one has come to expect with Ms. Rendell, the writing is wonderfully clear and concise and the characterisation tight with the result I savoured every word. As with other Wexford stories I found Reg's reading choice i.e., Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, interesting.

This is not germane to the review of No Man's Nightingale, but my favourite Ruth Rendell novel is a stand alone story which does not feature Wexford and is entitled A Judgement in Stone; this book is a veritable gem written many years ago and the most perfect example of a psychological thriller I have ever read - not a whodunnit but more of a whydunnit.
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on 1 August 2014
Even though I love several of Rendell's books I am getting increasingly irritated by her cavalier use of Indian characters with absolutely wrong names and background details. In this book, the murder victim is called Sarah Hussain and is said to have converted to Christianity from Hinduism, and to hail from Darjeeling. Rendell has done this kind of thing in earlier books too - egregiously misnamed characters, but this one goes a bit too far. Everyone knows or should know that Hussain is a Muslim name. This supposedly Hindu character knows Urdu and Hindi (used interchangeably by Rendell, who doesn't seem to realize that these two languages have different scripts and that very few Hindus read Urdu, so if Sarah did, some explanation would be expected). And, of course, Sarah is so disgusted by the poverty she sees in India (although her grandmother, whose name we fortunately do not know, owns an estate in Darjeeling, that she gets converted by one of the many missionaries who are all over India helping the poor. The book is sanctimoniously scattered with references to racism. The many inaccuracies made this a difficult read for me. Rendell needs to hire an assistant to do some googling on her behalf.No Man's Nightingale: (A Wexford Case)
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 August 2013
Sarah Hussain is strangled in the middle of the afternoon - and Wexford is called out of retirement to help Mike Burden understand why.

Rendell is now in her early 80s and I'm sad to say that shows in this book: the plot itself feels undercooked with digressions which go nowhere, but most disconcerting is the unpleasant, almost old-fashioned, view this gives of Kingsmarkham society (less than an hour, we learn, from London) which feels more like the 1950s or 1960s (at least how I imagine them) than 2013. We know we are in the present day as people have tablets, ipads, watch the X Factor - yet the way people respond to a mixed-race church minister is as if they've literally never encountered anyone not white `English' or a woman who isn't happy to be a stay-at-home housewife.

It is quite normal, apparently, in this world for the police to believe that a suspect could have gone into the victim's house unasked, seen her `an Indian woman in Indian dress' and been driven into such a frenzy of racist madness that they can do nothing but put their bare hands around her neck and throttle her to death. Hmm.

There are other jarring moments of `social commentary' that are more in keeping with the Daily Mail than a Labour peer: `foreigners' can barely be mentioned without `illegal immigrants' being in the same sentence; the `working classes' are shown to be practically illiterate, can only speak in malapropisms, and are involved in benefit scams...

This is quite a long way from Rendell's dark and disturbing books which delved deeply into neuroses, psychopathologies and twisted minds. This certainly isn't a bad book and it kept me reading to the end - but it is the product of an author sadly past her peak.

(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)
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on 28 November 2013
The plot is thin and the characters very unconvincing. I really did not enjoy this book. The many quotes were pretentious and added nothing.

I have enjoyed previous Ruth Rendell books but this is not one of her best.
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on 10 August 2014
I like Ruth Rendal's Wexford books. This one disappointed. Wexford has retired but has far too mush involvement with the case run by his old side kick Mike Burden. I know that anyone who has worked, as I have, in a profession regularly portrayed in fiction will scream, 'they wouldn't do that'! OK, authors take liberties with procedures, they have too or the books would never be written. In this book, however, the retired Wexford is invited to sit in on interviews, given access to police reports etc. etc. IT WOULD NOT HAPPEN! Belief is stretched to incredulity. Also, the story portrays Burden as an idiot, idiots do not get promoted to Superintendent. Wexford outwits his former colleague from retirement. Sorry Ruth, this book was a mistake, you've retired Wexford, let him enjoy it.
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on 4 October 2013
The story was ok to pass time in a waiting room or on a beach, however not a patch on rendells earlier Wexford books
Which were well written and gripping! However I agree with some earlier readers reviews that the racist bigots
Could have come out of 1950s Britain! This story gets very tedious it is constantly " peppered " with reverse racism
The white working class are often depicted as uneducated council estate lazy dishonest layabouts etc ie: Jenny's burdens assumption that Jason's mother would be" a home bleached blonde in boots" just for a start!
Where as the black and Asian community are supreme and proud outstanding good looks! academic! Her other books simisola and babes in the wood are the same! I
She just comes across as completely out of touch with modern Britain and now in her eighties I think it's time to retire
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on 16 September 2013
For those of us who grew up loving the wise old Wexford, and enjoyed the depiction of Burden's curmudgeonly character, this book disappoints. Definitely not a page-turner, it meanders along repetitively, mooching around pretty much as Wexford is doing in his retirement.

Maxine, the loquacious cleaning lady looms boringly on the page as in the homes she cleans. An obvious plot device, we could have done with less of her dialogue, and a more interesting character could have had the same effect without making me want to scream at her. She is not even amusing.

The tale is slight, the denouement average, and all in all, Ruth Rendell should leave Wexford in gentle oblivion.

Unless, of course, the next Wexford fizzles with an exciting plot, sends the unpleasant Burden to the outer Hebrides, and beefs up the parts of the lesser police officers. John Harvey did this with his Frank Elder books - we expect nothing less of Ruth Rendell.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 12 August 2014
I've always had mixed feelings about Ruth Rendell, and this is a book that highlights her bad points more than her good. One of the problems here is that the main police character, Wexford, has now retired and so has to act as an unpaid sidekick to the endlessly bland Burden, with much agonising about what is and isn't appropriate now that Wexford isn't really a policeman.

The plot seems to be derived primarily to allow for Rendell's usual musings on political correctness from Wexford's viewpoint and is, frankly, highly implausible. There is perhaps a slight easing up on the strangely over-formal, old fashioned viewpoints - Wexford books always read like they were written by someone whose idea of Britain, and particularly spoken English, was taken from a 1950s magazine written for the colonies, but they are still there.

She doesn't even get the facts right. There is much complaining about the terrible way the local vicar has switched to using the 'Alternative Service Book' in place of the Book of Common Prayer. Admittedly this would, indeed, be a cause for complaint, but unfortunately for Rendell, this is because the Alternative Service Book was discarded in favour of Common Worship some 13 years before this book is set - it doesn't say a lot for the research.

The only thing I can say in favour of it is that after bumbling along at a slow pace for 90% of the pages, the last 10% picks up considerably and suddenly becomes interesting (if no more plausible). Perhaps it's time for Wexford to take his retirement seriously.
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