2009: 18. Death Notes

“Against the angels and the apostles in the window the snow fluttered like plucked down.”

Death Notes, Ruth Rendell

This is a pretty basic Inspector Wexford mystery - one of Rendell’s earlier books.  This means that it is less complex than her later work, but, I have found, it also means there is less of that creepy sociopathic character that (over)populates much of her later work.  I love Rendell when she writes mysteries about regular people whose lives go astray, and I especially love when she writes her Barbara Vine books, where the mystery is more the mystery of the human heart than the actual murder (though there is usually one of those too).  But I do not love this character that she often returns to - a person who has no emotional connection to the world - a psychopath who wreaks havoc through his or her lack of understanding of/empathy to other people.  Maybe (even probably) this is the way that many murderers are, but I don’t enjoy reading about them.  Which doesn’t have much to do with this book, really, but as I’ve been reading and re-reading a bunch of Rendell, I’ve been pondering this topic, and will surely return to it as I blog more of her books.

Anyway, Death Notes is about a famous flautist, who is about to remarry.  Right before his marriage his long estranged daughter comes to visit him.  He tells his fiancee that the girl is not really his daughter - and soon is found dead.  At first it seems like natural causes, but when the story of the daughter comes to light, murder is suspected.  Is the woman who she seems??*  Inspector Wexford becomes obsessed with figuring out whether the heir is who she says she is, and with solving the murder.   

As I said, it’s a pretty basic mystery.  I enjoyed grappling with the question of how anyone can prove they are who the say they are (again, in pre-DNA times), and found this a pretty pleasant diversion.

*This is an older story and pre-dates DNA testing - obviously a murder like this would never work today.


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

Categories:  Fiction; Mystery; Ruth Rendell Project


© Carrie Dunsmore 2017