2010: 3. Talking to Strange Men


Talking To Strange Men, Ruth Rendell

     This is a very different sort of Rendell, and as such it took me longer to get into than The Rottweiler, but once I got the flow of it, I found it to be a much better and more interesting book.  Be forewarned - SPOILERS follow - I can’t really explain why I liked it without explaining the plot at the beginning, even though part of what I enjoyed about the book was sussing out just what exactly was going on, so if you think you might like it, I’d suggest clicking off to book number three.  Anyway, Talking to Strange Men starts off like a spy novel, with a figure dropping off a coded message for a member of his cell.  Then another man, who has started to find the messages takes it down, and copies it, taking it home to try to puzzle out (as the codebreaking stands for a distraction from his lonely life, where his sister has been murdered, and his wife left him for another man).  Eventually we learn that the spy is not a spy, but rather a school boy who is involved in an elaborate game of espionage between his prep school and a rival school (though he takes it quite as seriously as if it were really London and Moscow Central, as they call themselves).  The game and the man intersect in strange and small ways, leading us almost inevitably to a tragic (or is it?) ending.

      As I said, it took me a while to warm to the book, as I tried to figure out what exactly was going on, but once I did, I really liked it.  Rendell often writes about how the smallest inadvertent actions can have serious and unexpected consequences, and this book does such a great job using a sad man and a too-serious game to tell a heck of a crime story.  Enjoyed it.

Date/Place Completed: April 2010

Categories: Library Book, Ruth Rendell Project

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017