Skip to main content

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.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972 Originally published: 1944 My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press) How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy: 2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, April 2013
This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death.
To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; Austen’s news is all about pe…

Review: Midnight in Peking, by Paul French

Pages: 259 Original date of publication: 2013 My copy: 2013 (Penguin) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Phoenix bookstore, May 2013
In January 1937, the body of a young British girl, Pamela Werner, was found near Peking’s Fox Tower. Although two detectives, one British and the other Chinese, spent months on the case, the case was never solved completely, and the case was forgotten in the wake of the invasion of the Japanese. Frustrated, Pamela’s father, a former diplomat, tried to solve the crime. His investigation took him into the underbelly of Peking society and uncovered a secret that was worse than anything he could have imagined.
At first, I thought that this would be a pretty straightforward retelling of a true crime, but what Paul French (who spent seven years researching the story) reveals in this book is much more than that. Foreign society in Peking in the 1930s was stratified, with the British colonials at the top and the White Russian refugees at the bottom, but…