2010: 95. The Killing Doll

“The winter before he was sixteen, Pup sold his soul to the devil.”

The Killing Doll, Ruth Rendell

       I really, really enjoyed this standalone Rendell.  The first sentence, quoted above, made me nervous that this would be another one of her books about strange psychopaths that I appreciate but don’t really enjoy, but this one was a little bit different.  It’s mainly about Pup and Dolly Yearman, a brother and sister whose mother has died, and whose father basically ignores them.  Dolly, who is a little bit, well, strange, dotes on Pup, and Pup, who is a little neglected, finds himself dabbling in magic (Alaistair Crowley and all that jazz). Things are fine, if a little strange, until their father suddenly remarries a woman Dolly loathes.  Throw in Pup starting to grow up and become more normal, and the presence of Diarmit Bawne, a mentally ill man who has moved in nearby, and soon the lives of the Yearman family will change forever.

       This is classic stand-alone Rendell, less a who-dunnit than a what-happened, but the way the pieces fold and refold upon each other to the (what becomes) inevitable tragic ending is just extremely clever and satisfying.  Plus, because I am a total baby, I’m not to proud to admit (VAGUE SPOILERS) that the fact that the characters I liked best survived helped me enjoy the book more.

Categories: Ruth Rendell Project

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017