INCLUDES AN EXCERPT OF RENDELL’S FINAL NOVEL, DARK CORNERS
Diamond Dagger Award–winning Ruth Rendell has written a psychologically thrilling novel about the eccentric inhabitants of a London terrace, the secrets they keep, and what they will do to hide them.
Is it dangerous to know too much about your neighbors?
When Stuart Font decides to throw a housewarming party in his new flat, he invites all the people in his building—three flippant young girls, a lonely spinster, a man with a passion for classical history, and a woman determined to drink herself to death. After some deliberation, he even includes the unpleasant caretaker and his wife. He considered inviting a few other friends, but he definitely does not want his girlfriend, Claudia, in attendance, as he would also have to invite her lawyer husband.
As it turns out, the party will be one everyone remembers.
Living in a townhouse opposite Stuart’s building, in reclusive isolation, is a young, beautiful Asian woman known as Tigerlily. As though from some strange urban fairytale, she emerges infrequently to exert a terrible spell.
And Stuart’s parents, always worried about their handsome, hopelessly naive, and undermotivated son, have even more cause for concern.
Darkly humorous, piercingly insightful about human behavior, Ruth Rendell, whom People magazine calls “one of the most remarkable novelists of her generation,” has created an extraordinarily compelling story of our lives and crimes.
Rendell's spare, sleek novel of psychological suspense gets off to a slow start, then picks up speed to become vintage Rendell, not the powerhouse of the 1990s but with enough plot petrol to blow most American authors out of the water. Personalities and generations clash and coexist at Lichfield House, a north London condominium, whose residents include Stuart Font, a vapid Romeo; 60-year-old Olwen Curtis, boozing away her liver; and Marius Potter, an ex-hippie growing fond of his neighbor, Rose Preston-Jones. Add a pedophile janitor, a trio of faddish college students, and a mysterious house across the street where immigrants from Hong Kong allegedly grow orchids, and you have all the elements for spontaneous social combustion. Less a mystery than a slice of life, the book offers a lone murder that comes across as an afterthought because neither the characters nor the reader can feel strongly about it. As always, Rendell (Portobello) spices the action with just the right gothic ingredients to keep things baroque but consistently believable.
Rendell writes intelligently and wittily. Usually, I have no patience with the backing and filling with inconsequential detail common to most crime/ mystery literature. There is none if that here. Rather, Rendell portrays a complex set of personalities and psyches. She shows rather than tells.