The late Ruth Rendell has long been one of my all-time favorite mystery novelists. Her characterization coupled with intricate plotting and ingenious crimes ensure that her novels will be savored by readers. It is for this reason that I have decided to pay tribute to Ruth Rendell in my first in a series of blog posts on mystery series that I enjoyed enough that, given the time, I would joyfully read AGAIN.
Ruth Rendell is the queen of the ‘whydunnit‘ as opposed to the ‘whodunnit’.
The Inspector Wexford stories are an excellent example of quintessential British police procedural mysteries. Set in the fictional town of Kingsmarkham, in Sussex, England, these fine novels feature Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford, his Detective Inspector, Mike Burden, and Wexford’s long-suffering wife Dora, and two daughters, Sheila (his favorite) and Sylvia (who lives with an enormous chip on her shoulder when it comes to her father).
The somewhat curmudgeonly Reginald Wexford is in his early fifties when we first meet him in “From Doon with Death“. Keenly intelligent, he is an avid reader and he utilizes his imagination and sensitivity when solving crimes. Rendell describes him as “a big, ugly man”. He is a master of the study of human behavior and displays a keen psychological insight in his work. His second in command, Mike Burden is resourceful, respectful, and above all…patient.
There are 24 full-length novels in the Wexford mystery series. There are also many short stories featuring brief Wexford cases in several of Rendell’s anthologies. Anyone who has yet to read this wonderful series is indeed ‘in for a treat’!
#1. From Doon with death
#2 A new lease of death (also published under the title “Sins of the fathers”
#3. Wolf to the slaughter
#4. The best man to die
#5. A guilty thing surprised
#6. No more dying then
#7. Murder being once done
#8. Some lie and some die
#9. Shake hands forever
#10. A sleeping life
#11. Put on by cunning (also published under the title “Death notes”)
#12. The speaker of Mandarin
#13. An unkindness of ravens
#14. The veiled one
#15. Kissing the gunner’s daughter
#17. Road rage
#18. Harm done
#19. The babes in the wood
#20. End in tears
#21. Not in the flesh
#22. The monster in the box
#23. The vault
#24. No man’s nightingale
Means of evil and other stories (short stories featuring Wexford)
The Wexford mysteries were adapted for television with the late George Baker in the title role and Christopher Ravenscroft playing the part of DI Mike Burden.
Ruth Rendell wrote myriad mysteries under her own name, and many dark, psychological thrillers under her pseudonym of Barbara Vine.
She was a good friend of the late P.D. James (another of my favorites).
They died just months apart…
I like to think they are somewhere chatting about fictional crimes over a cup of tea.