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Customer Review

VINE VOICEon 23 April 2012
This had every appearance of being a mainstream police procedural that, even if expertly written, would be entertaining for the duration of the time it took to read it, and then be forgotten quickly. Looks can be deceiving.

Recently I resolved to give Ruth Rendell's Wexford novels a fresh look. Somehow I had decided years ago that they were boring. So I began with the first of the series, From Doon with Death, which came out in 1964. It was an enjoyable mystery, a just the facts ma'am bare bones detective story, an introduction to Inspector Wexford that didn't reveal much about him.

Unable to find the second novel, Sins of the Fathers (Chief Inspector Wexford Mysteries, No. 2), I moved on to Wolf To The Slaughter. It was dreary and complicated and not very interesting. And Wexford's underling, Inspector Burden, was very annoying with his prim attitude. I didn't finish it.

But then I came across The Veiled One, which was well into the series, first published in 1988, so I abandoned the chronological approach. Inspector Burden is again an unattractive character, judgmental and narrow-minded. When Wexford is hospitalized with injuries, Burden has to take charge of a murder case and determines that one suspect is almost certainly the killer. Despite reservations expressed by both his wife and his boss, Burden sets his sights on extracting a confession from the suspect. This takes an unexpected and curiously satisfying turn.

I have enjoyed most of Ruth Rendell's stand-alone novels and her psychological thrillers written as Barbara Vine, but am now discovering that within what seems initially like the closer confines of the police procedural Wexford novels and its claustrophobic small village Kingsmarkham, she explores British social trends and topics of the day. So far, I'm finding the series a fascinating, if uneven, exploration of British social history, with mysteries thrown in for good measure.
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