Craving some vintage psychological crime drama, I succumbed to a small dose of Ruth Rendell. I was handsomely rewarded and relished every page of A New Lease of Death.
Reverend Archery embarks on a mission of disproving the guilt of a man hanged for murdering Mrs Primero. The man is the father of the young lady Archery’s son wishes to marry. Inspector Wexford has no doubts about Painter’s guilt – he had investigated the case twenty years ago and knows that there was no room for error.
In her trademark fashion, Rendell guides the reader into the complex psyche of her protagonist as he tries to turn the case on its head. In the process he turns people’s lives upside down with the most dramatic of consequences.
When the conclusion is reached it makes perfect sense. Everything is rational, though surprising and unexpected. Rendell never fails to make me believe that it could have happened for real. Her characters’ motivations are linked to their past experiences and neatly brought together.
Some readers have complained that the book is dated. I find that bizarre. The book is an early Rendell. It is set in the late sixties/early seventies. It fits in its own times and reflects the mores of society as it was then and there. It doesn’t require any updating to the twenty-first century. I wonder if those who complain about dated Ruth Rendell also lament over Jane Austin being out of touch with the twenty-first century.