The one with the old-fashioned nightingale

Ruth Rendell, No Man’s Nightingale (2013)

I’m sorry this blog has been a bit quiet lately, because I have finished several books already, have many drafts lying around in my virtual drawers and no energy to finish any of them! Things have been hectic on the home front and I just look forward to the long weekend.

I’m a Ruth Rendell gal rather than a Barbara Vine gal. Which means that I feel a bit lost when she’s in psychological thrillers that span a long period and often finish in an open-ended way. I prefer more straightforward, solid plots with some police procedures and a nice, clean resolution with preferably a guilty person behind bars (a bow nicely tied for each story line is not mandatory but much appreciated). Which means that I enjoyed Inspector Wexford every time we met while he was still in activity.

As he retired, things got trickier. He had no longer the legitimacy to investigate (even he still had the inclination, and surely a lot of time on his hand), and that he no longer could make sure that the guilty one was dealt with by the police. This time, it’s the small town’s vicar who got murdered. But we’re not in the Agatha Christie’s world, and the vicar is a woman, and not only that, she’s a single mother of Indian descent. Wexford’s wife being a regular church-goer, his former deputy Burden who is now a superintendent involves him into the investigation.

As a very bizarre wink, I found that I could not associate the nightingale reference in the title to anything else but the P.D. James’ novel “A shroud for a nightingale”, my probably favorite Inspector Dalgliesh mystery!

My understanding is that Ruth Rendell wanted to show how investigations are fraught with coincidences, mistakes, assumptions and errors. This made me think of the MOOC course I followed offered by the University of Queensland: The Science of Everyday Thinking, on how humans think and what usually clouds our rational minds. Wexford and Burden, with a long career behind them, still have preconceptions and prejudices that put them on the wrong track. And sometimes, the bits of discussions you have with the cleaning lady, which are normally so annoying and superficial, are really turning points into deep drama.

That said, it’s certainly not the best Wexford investigation and I would never recommend to start with this one. I think the plot itself would have been neater, tighter and with a lot more edge if the investigation had been led by some other policeman, or maybe the victim’s daughter.




2 thoughts on “The one with the old-fashioned nightingale

  1. I’m so glad to find another Ruth Rendell Fan! I adore her. I’ve never read the Barbara Vine ones, though. I’m slowly making my way through the Wexford series – I’ll read two or three a year. My favorite standalone novel of hers so far is The Crocodile Bird – have you read that one?

  2. I have an inadequate sample to draw from, but so far I think I tend to be a Barbara Vine girl? I don’t know. I have only read a few of the early Ruth Rendell books, which probably doesn’t give me a sense of what she can be like at the height of her powers. I had this whole plan to read ALL HER BOOKS in chronological order, under both names, but it has stalled out a bit. :p

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