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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 February 2004
This is not a review, as such. The Speaker of Mandarin is one of the best Wexford tales, clever and surprising as they all are, with the added feature of seeing Wexford on holiday in China, which Rendell renders wonderfully!
However, as I say, this is not a review, this is more of a plea. Several of these relatively early titles by RR remain stubbornly out of print, impossible to acquire. To Fear A Painted Devil and Vanity Dies Hard are two more examples. All excellent books, which seem to have been passed by by her publishers, randomhouse, left unacceptably out of print. This is quite clearly wrong, as this in particular is a fantastic book. If you are an ardent Rendell fan and can't get hold of these titles, email her publisher (the adress for emailing the sales department can be found on their site) without further ado! The more people who request info on out-of-print titles, the more likely it is that they will be reprinted. So, I urge you, get emailing in order that everyone will be able to experience the joys of every one of Rendell's works!
If you can manage to get hold of The Speaker of Mandarin these days, enjoy it. It's one fantastic crime novel, clever and unguessable, in a brilliant setting. In Rendell's canon, it is unique.
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on 30 April 2014
There will be SPOILERS here as I'll find it difficult to discuss 'Mandarin' without them, so.....

'Speaker of Mandarin' is a bit of a departure for both Rendell and Wexford as our well-read hero is off to China for the first part of the novel. Agatha Christie often set her novels in foreign parts and perhaps Rendell was bored writing about the English countryside and London (although both appear later on) and wanted to do something different. Reg has been abroad before of course but never to somewhere as different as eighties China! The first part of the novel then is largely a travelogue and Rendell's descriptive passages are colourful and evocative (and sometimes not very PC).

The murder doesn't get going until the second part and is loosely connected with the Chinese section. The real problem, for me, is that most of the book is one huge red herring. What some might regard as the 'twist' at the end feels like a cheat to me. Rendell pulls her familiar trick of spending very little time with the murderer so that we hardly know them and then pulling him/her out of the hat at the very end with a couple of clues tacked on. In the meantime, Reg spends an inordinate amount of time trekking round London interviewing people who, in the end, don't really matter. It didn't help that the victim and her family are probably the least interesting so far in a Wexford novel - dull English upper middles! There are some good things, not least the original and engaging character of Miss Elf! Rendell novels are always worth reading and this is no exception but its by no means one of her best.
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on 18 May 2015
I reckon this is one of the very best of the Wexford novels. It has a complex plot, lots of wonderful stuff about China in the 80's as Reg travels around searching for clues, and lots of the usual sharply-drawn characters and good dialogue, plus one of the most awful upper class families you could encounter. And naturally his friend and sidekick Mike Burden plays his part later in the book. I have no affection for RR's psychological thrillers, clever though they are, they are not to my taste, but her Wexford novels are a delight and I love them all. I have all of them now (tragically we can never have any more) and I re-read them regularly because I find you get more out of them at each reading. Highly recommended.
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on 16 September 2015
The characters are well drawn and overall the book is interesting. The background detail to a trip through the sights of China are well described. Found the conclusion a little implausible however and no clues were given to let the reader make an educated guess at the perpetrator.
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on 31 August 2014
One of the most enjoyable Rendell books, even if I am not a fan altogether. The plot is fair to the reader and shows signs of intelligence, something we have grown to love about Ruth Rendell's writing - the respect for the reader's intelligent appreciation of the facts.
Characters are developed as much as it is needed for the story to unfold and there is no undue indulgence anywhere. I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone in search of a good read, regardless of genre.
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on 29 July 2013
I never thought I would ever write this about another Ruth Rendell book. This is the second of her books I did not like. I have read many of them and usually can't read them quick enough but this one was so hard to get into. I did not read much of it as I found it very boring. Not for me.
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on 1 December 2012
I bought this book on kindle for my elderly Mother who is always desperate for something intelligent to read. She is extremely fussy and likes books that are well written and have a decent plot full of good characters. She apparently enjoyed this one very much.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 23 July 2014
The first section of this book centres around a trip made by Wexford to China. I am sure that China has changed greatly from how it was in the 1980s and that tourists are not quite so strictly controlled. However, this was a very interesting section of the book with plenty of description about the countryside and the Chinese people that Wexford met. The author rather sold this era of Chinese history to me. The author wrote particularly well concerning Wexford's confusion about some hallucinations he was having though it was quite obvious to the reader as to the cause.
The second section of the book occurs some months later when Wexford is back in England and investigating a murder of a local woman. It will come as no surprise that Wexford met this woman whilst in China and much of his investigation centres around that trip. This section of the book was quite average for a detective novel. There were plenty of visits and repeat visits to various characters, several red herrings that the book could have done without and a conclusion which really made the whole first section of the book rather nul and void.
As detective novels go this was a fairly lightweight and standard book. I listened to this as an audio book whilst doing other things and it very much suited this style of reading - it didn't require much attention to keep the thread of the story. Having said that, I did get slightly lost amongst the characters who had been on the trip to China. They were quite cardboard and had few distinguishing features so that they seemed to merge into one. However, I feel that this would have happened regardless of how much attention I was paying.
As long as you don't want to give much attention to the reading and don't expect a brilliant story in return, this book is ok to read. I doubt very much that I will be able to recall any of the plot or characters in a few days as they just didn't stand out for me.
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on 7 September 2015
A strong Ruth Rendell book. As always, great dialog and wonderful characters. This book also has a great look at a western tourist view of China from an earlier time and a slight touch of the supernatural.
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on 1 June 2012
Mystery writing at its best-every page full of intrigue-could not put it down-a good and unexpected ending-will read again at a future date
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