The Babes in the Wood by Ruth Rendell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Book 12 of #15in2015
Wow. This was sort of terrible.
Rendell died recently, and the way her obituaries described her work made me want to sample it. The sensible thing would have been for me to carefully select a much-lauded novel, but instead I grabbed something at random on the shelf.
The characters were cliches: an absent-minded professor, a snotty supermodel, misogynistic Christian fundamentalists, the overweight guy who can’t resist a sweet cake in the most awkward of social circumstances. The plot dawdled, in part because of characters who find a body but don’t report it because of the bother it would cause them (missing children? So what?) and in part because there’s so little going on.
Worse, there are continual little author self-inserts that make no sense in the context of the rest of the book. Stuff like (paraphrasing) “The inspector had forgotten to ask an important question, and it would be weeks before he realized what it was” which doesn’t match the bulk of the novel, but seems very like a ham-fisted attempt to create tension.
Finally, it’s apparent from the latter part of the book that the author had a lovely vacation abroad, and much of the denouement made it tax-deductible.
Maybe her earlier work was more nuanced and interesting. Maybe it had momentum. This doesn’t.