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Review: 13 Steps Down, by Ruth Rendell

Gwendolen Chawcer is an elderly woman who lives in a large, old house decayed by time and mildew. She's a stubborn woman, and lives in the past. She especially dwells upon a romance that took place fifty years ago with a man she hasn't seen since. Gwendolen gets confused easily, but has a few friends who check up on her every so often. They suggest that she rent out the top floor of the building to a lodger- and so Mix Cellini enters her life, albeit briefly.

Mix Cellini is obsessed with the life of a serial murderer, Reggie Christie, who lived in the neighborhood fifty years ago. This particular murderer buried his victims in the floorboards, then moved them to the backyard in order to escape detection. Six women were killed this way, including Christie's wife, who probably found out about the other murders. Christie's example is going to be the inspiration for the murder Mix commits. Mix is also obsessed with a local supermodel, Nerissa Nash.

Nerissa Nash is the most sympathetic character in this book. She is a supermodel, and obsessed with her weight. Freaked out by having a stalker in the person of Mix Cellini, Nerissa takes to watching her back wherever she goes. However, Mix doesn't understand that he is being rejected, and is deluded into thinking that she will marry him one day.

A girl named Danila becomes overly attached to Mix; and, in a moment of desperation, he kills her with a marble statue in his apartment. He buries her body under the floorboards, hoping to move the body later. His plotting becomes a major theme of this book, as he tries to skirt around the watchful eye of Miss Chawcer and her friends.

Ruth Rendell tries to get into the person of each of the main characters, assuming the psychology of an old woman, a killer, and a model. Rendell is a brilliant writer with a gift for keeping her readers on the edge of their seats. I couldn't put this book down.


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