2009: 33. Shake Hands Forever

“The woman standing under the departures board at Victoria station had a flat rectangular body and an ironhard rectangular face”

Shake Hands Forever, Ruth Rendell

Another older Wexford mystery, this one about the murder of the Angela Hathall.  Her body is discovered by her mother-in-law who hates her for breaking up her son’s first marriage.  Wexford is certain that the son, Robert Hathall, is guilty of the crime.  He can’t prove it, and eventually is told to give up on the case.  But Wexford is like a dog with a bone - he can’t stop even when he is ordered to by his chief, when he is threatened with termination if he doesn’t back off the suspect.  Will Wexford be able to get his man? Or is his monomania blinding him to the real suspect? 


I liked this book because it made Wexford seem more human, in his Javert-like obsession with the case and the suspect.  He seemed fallible and thus real.  Plus, I liked a mystery that focused on the notion that sometimes the police know (or think? that ambiguity is nicely played too) who did, but can’t get the evidence.  It made the mystery seem more lifelike, even if the ultimate solution was fantastic enough to bring us back to the realm of mystery fiction.  Which is not to say that it was ridiculous, just that I am pretty certain that few murders in real life are one half as elaborate as what we see in mystery fiction.  I’m not complaining - I love me some complicated twisty mysteries, just stating what seems like an obvious fact!


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

Categories: Fiction; Ruth Rendell Project

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017