Monday, June 15, 2015

From Doon With Death

I'm a Bad Mystery Fan.  I've only read a few Sherlock Holmes stories.  The only book I've read by PD James was Death Comes to Pemberly.  And until a few weeks ago, I hadn't read the books Ruth Rendell wrote under her own name (although I've read most of the books she wrote as Barbara Vine).

I like to read series in order, so I bought  From Doon With Death at the Book Corner a few months ago, and it quickly floated to the top of the pile.  One evening, Ronald Parsons asked his neighbor, Detective Mike Burden, to find his wife.  Margaret Parsons had not come home from her daily errands, and the next morning her body is found in a wooded area.  Why would anyone want to kill a dowdy, downmarket woman with no family other than her husband?  The only clue is a series of love notes hidden in a trove of books Inspector Wexford finds in the Parsons's attic.  They're signed "Doon" and while Doon's identity was probably shocking in 1964, I figured out who the murder was pretty quickly.  Rendell rightly gets some credit for raising the mystery genre from a simple "whodunnit" to the more complex psychological study that merits reviews in serious periodicals, but the motives feel almost as dated as the linoleum in the Parsons's kitchen.  I enjoyed From Doon With Death but it's not up to the level of the Barbara Vine novels.

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