A compelling and deliciously unnerving novel. It WAS written by Ruth Rendell after all… She penned 66 novels. I’m just so sad it is the last ‘new’ novel of hers I shall ever read.
Set in the affluent London suburb of Maida Vale, the novel features Carl Martin, a young novelist in his early twenties. Carl has recently inherited a property from his father – and in order to make ends meet he takes in a tenant for his upstairs rooms. The tenant, Dermot, works at a local veterinary clinic and is a regular church-goer. At first Dermot seems a model tenant – but that is short-lived…
It happens that Carl’s father left behind a good number of medicines in the bathroom. When Carl’s friend Stacy, a television actress, complains of gaining weight, he sells her some of the ‘diet’ capsules from his father’s stash. Tragically, Stacy dies as a result of her taking the DNP. Dermot had witnessed the transaction with Stacy and now exerts a sort of reverse blackmail upon Carl. He is not demanding money from him, rather he is withholding his rent instead. Rent that Carl depends upon to live – as his writing does not pay the bills…
Dermot inflicts such insidious psychological torment on Carl that the reader can feel his desperation. His life becomes unmanageable. He becomes irrationally frightened of Dermot – so much so that he has suicidal thoughts. The humiliation and shame that would come about if Dermot shared his knowledge – ruining his career and reputation – would be just too much.
The secondary protagonist of “Dark Corners” is Lizzie. An acquaintance of Stacey’s, Lizzie is a loner who enters Stacey’s lovely flat after her death and squats there. She make free and easy with Stacey’s belongings. Eating her food, drinking her drink, wearing her clothes. Yet Lizzie deludes herself into thinking she would never ‘steal’ anything…
Neither of the two protagonists in “Dark Corners” are particularly likable yet the reader raptly follows their increasingly desperate plights – much like fascinated onlookers at an accident scene…
“Dark corners” is a twisted story about twisted personalities. Ruth Rendell is a writer with a seemingly expert knowledge of human foibles and the vagaries of human behavior. She writes ‘WHYdunits’ rather than WHO dunits. This is a novel of abduction, murder and psychological torment – NOT a mystery as such.
I’m happy and grateful to Scribner via NetGalley and Edelweiss for providing me with digital ARCs of this novel. (Yes I requested from two different places in case one of them turned me down… I just couldn’t chance not getting to review Ruth Rendell’s last novel).
I’m sad that Ruth Rendell never lived to see her latest novel published…
Known as the “Queen of Crime,” British mystery/suspense author Ruth Rendell has been publishing novels since 1964. She has sold at least 20 million copies of more than 60 novels translated into 25 languages worldwide. Rendell began her writing career with the Inspector Wexford series, but evolved over time to embrace psychological thrillers and suspense novels. She has also published under the pseudonym of Barbara Vine.
I had not known of her death. Sorry to hear that. The book sounds very interesting. Thanks for reviewing it.
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It will be a bittersweet event reading this last ever novel by Ruth Rendell, one of the most prolific and adventurous of crime writers of modern times – she will be greatly missed,
Thank you so much for posting this Ruth Rendall review: I have always loved her books and those written under the pen name Barbara Vine. It was a very sad day to her of her demise.