Dark Corners by Ruth Rendell

Dark Corners by Ruth Rendell is her last book, just published recently, 2015. I thought that maybe as it had been written not long before she died and she had been getting on in years this book might have been a disappointment, but it was a cracker. I was lucky to be able to sit down today and read all 279 pages of it, just breaking off from reading to eat and drink.

I don’t want to say too much about it really. Carl Martin is a young author who has just had his first book published. His parents were divorced and his father had died recently, leaving his house to Carl. It’s in a very expensive part of London. But if Carl lets out the top half of the house he will be able to afford to live from the rent it brings in, and continue to write full time on his next novel.

Carl has no idea how to go about choosing a tenant and he decides just to accept the first man in the queue as his tenant, despite not really liking the look of him much. That’s Carl’s first mistake which all his subsequent troubles stem from.

Dark Corners could never be described as a cozy crime book. It’s a psychological thriller, full of suspense and anything but a relaxing read, but a definite page turner. What a pity there’ll be no more from Ruth Rendell.

I was quite amazed to see this one sitting on the new books shelf in one of our at risk of closure libraries, because I thought there would have been a long list of people who had reserved it, I must have just got there at the right time as I see that someone has reserved it now, which is why I decided to get on with reading it in one day. Well the weather has been awful, it has rained for days, so dreich that a lamp is needed on at noon. Reading this book fairly brightened up my day though.

There’s a very short interview with Rendell before the book begins:

But why the fascination with psychopaths?…..

“Well.” Rendell says in her precise voice. “I do empathise with people who are driven by dreadful impulses. I think to be driven to want to kill must be such a terrible burden. I try, and I think I succeed, in making my readers feel pity for my psychopaths, because I do.”

Sunday Telegraph magazine, 10th April 2005.

A Suspension of Mercy by Patricia Highsmith

A Suspension of Mercy by Patricia Highsmith was published way back in 1965, but it was in the 1970s that I discovered her and then went on a Highsmith binge, recommended to other people that they should read her books, and then for some reason didn’t keep up with her books myself in subsequent years.

So this was a recent library choice for me, I’m fairly sure that I didn’t read this one in the 1970s. It has been republished as a Virago Modern Classic.

Sydney Bartleby is a young American writer and he is living with his wife Alicia in the wilds of rural Suffolk. Sydney has a very vivid imagination and I suppose he is the writer’s equivalent of a method actor as he feels the need to act out one of his plots to see how he will feel, he wants to get the emotions correct as he digs a grave in a remote patch of countryside.

At times I was in two minds as to whether Alicia had actually been murdered by him or not, so when Alicia does disappear from their cottage, supposedly having gone to visit her parents but never arrived there, things look very bad for Sydney indeed. All the clues point to him having done her in and everyone is sure he is guilty, including the police.

This was a cracker of a book, really full of suspense. Why oh why have I left it getting on for 40 years since I read a Patricia Highsmith book?!

Do you have a favourite book by her which you can recommend me to read next?