by Ruth Rendell
Why is it that every author who bases a series around a single character eventually feels the need to take him out of his usual sphere and into foreign and supremely uncomfortable territory? I understand the desire to keep the series from becoming formulaic, but I would never have accused Ruth Rendell of that failing, anyway. In this book she puts Chief Inspector Wexford into an awkward position that makes him doubt himself, and thereby just made me slightly miserable with him. She made me identify with her character, but I read partly to escape from that kind of reality.
Wexford has suffered an aneurysm, and is on vacation in order to recover. One problem--the nephew with whom he and his wife are staying is also a policeman, one who even outranks the dear old curmudgeon. Inevitably, Wexford gets drawn into a case, and his vacation quickly comes to a halt, even if he is only "unofficially" involved with someone else's investigation. Wisely, his wife has the sense to throw up her hands in exasperation and cease trying to make him behave.
The actual mystery involved here is definitely up to Rendell's usual standard, which more than makes up for any seeming deficiencies. Having once pushed past the setting and gotten to the meat of the novel, I was intrigued by the plot and impressed by the variety of devices used to keep me interested (and puzzled). I enjoyed it quite a bit, but sincerely hope we go back with Wexford to Kingsmarkham where he belongs for the next book.