Ruth Rendell, Road Rage


Ruth Rendell will always be treasured for her outstanding contribution to crime fiction. It is not always recognised that her writing pushed the boundaries of crime further and she inspired many to follow her into crime writing, such the late Michael Dibden and Val McDermid. This is a much loved Inspector Reg Wexford story and our signed edition contains an appreciation by the author of “Wire in the Blood” and other crime series, Val McDermid.

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Ruth Rendell began her esteemed Wexford police procedural series with From Doon to Death (1964). Her output has been prolific, high quality and its subject matter increasingly exposed important social concerns. Ruth kept her work fresh by alternating between Wexford and the Kingsmarkham setting and the blacker urban psychological thrillers, and from the 80s her deeper more expansive, Barbara Vine novels. The Inspector Wexford books were however, her first work rooted in the classical detective story.

“The interplay between the central character, Wexford – senior in years and rank, pragmatic, yet imaginative – and (Mike) Burden -straight-laced and somewhat inflexible – is an important attraction of these works. Their acerbic comradeship, both personally and professionally fulfilling, brings each man vividly to life, and their relationships with their families supply wide ranging complications and subplots.” [Twentieth Century Crime & Mystery Writers, third edition]

In Road Rage (1997) Inspector Wexford’s wife Dora has been taken hostage and he fears for her life. He must confront the nibbyism issue of the construction of a new road in Kingsmarkham. Dora happens to be actively engaged in opposing the construction, so much so that she is kidnapped. It is up to Wexford to unravel all the knots in this case, and to try to stay as professional as possible in so doing. The kidnappers have threatened to kill their hostages if their demands are not met. Wexford and trusty assistant Mike Burden are put to the test in this thriller.

The prolific Scottish writer Val McDermid began writing crime novels in 1987. She found inspiration in Ruth Rendell’s outstanding achievements to extent her own ambition and reach as a writer. Here she says that “no-one can equal her range or her accomplishments; no-one has earned more respect from her fellow practitioners”.

5.00 out of 5

2 reviews for Ruth Rendell, Road Rage

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rating by Kirkus Reviews on May 18, 2012 :

    “Rendell’s evolution from the unnervingly focused analyst of plausible psychoses to the more outward chronicler who uses crime to diagnose the ills of contemporary Britain–one of the glories of today’s mystery fiction–continues in a masterful tale of eco-terrorism that chills Chief Inspector Wexford as none of his earlier cases have. In order to protest the building of an unsightly and disruptive new bypass around Kingsmarkham, a band of eco-terrorists calling themselves the Sacred Globe take five hostages and threaten to kill them one by one unless Her Majesty’s Government agrees to abandon plans for the bypass. The hostages, kidnapped in an unusually inventive way, include an inoffensive older couple, an aspiring model, a teenaged boy, and Wexford’s wife Dora, snatched on her way to visit her newest grandchild. Rendell places her hero’s nerve-racking attempts to track Sacred Globe to their lair within a vast canvas that makes room for each of the victims’ agonized relatives, half a dozen environmental organizations of subtly different stripes, a marvelously shaded group portrait of Wexford’s troops–and a subplot involving a slain German hitchhiker, the discovery of whose body comes as an especially nasty surprise to readers so thorougly caught up in the other characters’ issues and lives. Rendell’s most probing and ambitious book since–well, since Wexford’s Edgar-winning last appearance in Simisola (1995)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rating by Val McDermid on May 18, 2012 :

    Extract from the Appreciation by Val McDermid

    “Ruth Rendell is unique among British crime writers. No-one can equal her range or her accomplishment; no-one has earned more respect from her fellow practitioners. The broad church that is current British crime writing owes much to a writer who has over her thirty-four year career consistently demonstrated that the genre can continually reinvent itself, moving in new directions, assuming new concerns and exploring new ways of telling stories. I can still remember reading Wexford’s beginnings in From Doon With Death and being bowled over. It’s one of a handful of crime novels that shaped my own ambitions in the field. Since that novel, Ruth Rendell has demonstrated a keen fascination in the collision between society and the individual, particularly where circumstances drive the individual to behaviour that society regards as somehow abnormal. Stable structures have only limited interest; what is gripping is where things fall apart, and this is the area where Ruth Rendell excels. Never content with mere description, she illuminates the human condition in a style that is invariably clear and compulsive. Although she started with that most classic of English forms, the police procedural, she transformed it both with her psychological insights and her concern with society. She never descends to polemic, yet the picture she has painted of British society since the mid-Sixties is often far from neutral. It is clear that many other things she sees make Ruth Rendell angry or despair, but her responses are always tempered through the filter of her characters; she always shows, never tells. So with Road Rage, the complex issues around the environmental impact of development are explored and confronted, sometimes with a very human ambivalence. I think I know what Ruth Rendell herself believes, but only by my own reading of the characters. And I could well be wrong; she has the skill to confound us all”.

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