Harriet Waugh

Curtain call for Ruth Rendell

Ruth Rendell’s final novel, Dark Corners, is about how psychological necessity can drive perfectly ordinary people either to terrible deeds or to unwitting acts of great courage — and extraordinary things can happen quite by chance to anyone. Carl, the central character, is a young man pleased with his life. He has written a novel

Mysteries of Paris

Fred Vargas — nom-de-plume of the French archaeologist and historian Frédérique Audoin-Rouzeau — took to writing crime novels in 1991. Among the many unusual aspects of her books is the English take on the French titles. L’Homme à l’envers appears as Seeking Whom He May Devour, Pars vite et reviens tard as Have Mercy on

A beastly upbringing

Minotaur in Love is Fraser Harrison’s second novel. His first, High on the Hog, published in 1991, set around a family Christmas in the country, was funny and moving. Minotaur in Love is altogether odder. Written in epistolary form, the Minotaur of the title is Bruno, a publisher, who tries to explain his strangeness to

Heroines and horrors

It is possible that my interest in this book was heightened by the fact that, in as much as I am anything, I am an aunt. I have 14 nephews and nieces, a step-nephew and -niece and 20 great-nephews and -nieces — as well as two stepchildren who I feel very aunt-like towards. A few

Recent crime books

The Stranger House by Reginald Hill (HarperCollins, £12.99) is not a Dalziel and Pascoe detective novel but a highly enjoyable gothic confection. Two strangers are brought reluctantly together in the village of Illthwaite in Cumbria. Sam Flood, a small, red-headed Australian woman of 24, is about to take up a post at Cambridge as a

Recent crime novels

Rumpole is back with us. In Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders by John Mortimer (Viking, £16.99) Rumpole is writing his memoirs and looks back on his first murder case when, as a pupil in a lazy barristers’ chambers, he takes over the defence of a young man accused of murdering his father and his

Seven of the best

Call the Dying is the seventh novel in Andrew Taylor’s Lydmouth series. He started it in 1994 and by setting it in the 1950s he recreates the English detective novel in what is perhaps its heyday but with subtle additions. In the first couple of novels the reader is aware of 1950s dress, behaviour and

The cad with the toothbrush technique

Of Nicci French’s six novels three deal with the subjugation of women by an aberrant man. Now the seventh tips the scale by making four out of seven. At least in the last novel, The Land of the Living, and in Secret Smile the heroines do not knuckle under; but one cannot help wondering whose

Closely related deaths

Good Morning, Midnight is an excellent novel by that mistress of introspective sensitivity, Jean Rhys. Reginald Hill hijacks the title for his far less morbid new detective novel starring that trinity of beings, Detective Superintendent Andy Dalziel, Detective Inspector Peter Pascoe and Sergeant Wield. Good Morning, Midnight is, however, definitely Pascoe’s case. Dalziel plays an

Howard’s end reconsidered

Minette Walters is an unusually uneven writer. Although we know she is just one person it is as though there are two writers taking it in turns to produce the novels. Her last one, Fox Evil, was a histrionic, scrappy affair, while Disordered Minds is far more intriguing, and has characters that seriously engage your

The hunter hunted

Abbie Devereaux, the heroine of Land of the Living, finds herself hooded and bound and a prisoner of a man who is just a whispering voice. She has a violent headache and cannot remember anything about how she has come to be lying on concrete in this damp, smelly place, or even anything leading up

Recent crime novels | 1 February 2003

For the last few years Ruth Rendell has used her Chief Inspector Wexford detective novels to explore social issues that have been much in the papers. This has unfortunately made for unoriginal story lines with obvious villains in an all too familiar terrain. It is a pleasure therefore to be able to report that The

The end of something good

Two running stories are brought to a close in Death’s Jest-Book. The first was introduced in the novel in which we first met Ellie, Peter Pascoe’s future wife. An Advancement of Learning, published in 1971, has that great team – politically correct Sergeant Peter Pascoe and fat, slobbish, thuggish Superintendent Andy Dalziel – investigating a