2009: 144. Speaker of Mandarin

“The perfectly preserved body of the woman they call the Marquise of Tai lay, sheathed in glass, some feet below them on the lower level.”

Speaker of Mandarin, Ruth Rendell

        This is a pretty bottom barrel Wexford mystery.  It starts with Wexford on a vacation to China (and this is set in 1983, when such a vacation was more exotic than it is now), and ends with him coming home to a murder mystery in which a victim was one of the people on the trip. Wexford is certain that the solution to the murder lies in events that happened on the trip - but can he put the pieces together?  The actual solution to the murder is somewhat ingenious, but what makes the story sort of a bust is the whole China angle. Rendell seems to get so into the “exotic” aspects of China that it overwhelms the story (and, in the end, there is nothing particularly Chinese about what happened - it could have been anywhere).  You can’t help but think she took a recent vacation and wanted to write it off by integrating it into a novel.  A rare misstep for Rendell.

Date/Place Completed: December  2009; D.C.

Categories: Fiction; Ruth Rendell Project

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017