“A spectacularly creepy and macabre tale” (Entertainment Weekly) of blackmail, murders both accidental and opportunistic, and of one life’s fateful unraveling—from Ruth Rendell, “one of the most remarkable novelists of her generation” (People), writing at her most mesmerizing. Rendell completed Dark Corners shortly before her death in 2015.
When his father dies, Carl Martin inherits a house in an increasingly rich and trendy London neighborhood. Cash poor, Carl rents the upstairs room and kitchen to the first person he interviews, Dermot McKinnon. That is mistake number one. Mistake number two is keeping the bizarre collection of homeopathic and alternative “cures” that his father left in the medicine cabinet, including a stash of controversial diet pills. Mistake number three is selling fifty of those diet pills to a friend, who is then found dead.
Dermot seizes a nefarious opportunity and begins to blackmail Carl, refusing to pay rent, and creepily invading Carl’s space. Ingeniously weaving together two storylines that finally merge in a shocking turn, Ruth Rendell describes one man’s spiral into darkness—and murder—as he falls victim to a diabolical foe he cannot escape.
This is brilliant psychological suspense that gets under your skin. As Stephen King says, “No one surpasses Ruth Rendell when it comes to stories of obsession, instability, and malignant coincidence.” Dark Corners, her last book, “ranks among her best” (The Washington Post).
MWA Grand Master Rendell (1930 2015) often explored the lives of the luckless who are dogged by disastrous coincidence. In this, her final book, writer Carl Martin is one such hapless fellow. Carl inherits a choice townhouse in London's chic Maida Vale neighborhood. He's cash-poor while pounding out his second novel, so he rents the upper floor to a predatory tenant, Dermot McKinnon. A pious icicle, Dermot believes that Carl's stock of homeopathic medicines may have figured in the death of a friend of Carl's, 24-year-old TV actress Stacey Warren. Soon, Carl is fending off two blackmailers. As always in Rendell's work, the thoughtless and obtuse sow chaos for the careful and sensitive, and London shines as a strong presence. This is a beguiling, powerful novel, made poignant by the staggering realization that this is the last of a feast of characters and narratives. Everything that makes Rendell's work so memorable gothic but believable people and plots, simple yet vivid prose, peerlessly rendered settings, and fear and despair as the twin "parents" of violence is in evidence here. Readers may sigh along with one of the characters, when, in the last sentence, he remarks, "And now, now it's all over."
At best a short story.
Rendell must have needed the money. Only an author with lots of other novels would have been able to get this rambling work published.
Every character was flawed. The only thing they had in common was the desire to eat and drink.
Seldom have I read a novel which left me believing I had wasted my time. This on is nothing but a cookie cutter work from an author lost and without direction.