The Rottweilerby Ruth Rendell
The first victim had bite marks on her neck so the London papers nicknamed her killer, “the Rottweiler.” He has been stalking the small and diverse London community of Lisson Grove, where Inez Ferry runs an antique shop frequented by a motley collection of eccentric individuals. When the Rottweiler’s trinkets start showing up in the shop, suddenly
The first victim had bite marks on her neck so the London papers nicknamed her killer, “the Rottweiler.” He has been stalking the small and diverse London community of Lisson Grove, where Inez Ferry runs an antique shop frequented by a motley collection of eccentric individuals. When the Rottweiler’s trinkets start showing up in the shop, suddenly, everyone Inez knows is a suspect, and the killer feels all too close. Enthralling and deeply unsettling, The Rottweiler alternates expertly between the mind of a psychopath and the daily affairs of those living in his shadow. It is a transfixing mystery that only Ruth Rendell could write.
A serial killer is loose in London, one who strangles his female victims and then takes a small trinket from each one as a morbid keepsake. The police are stumped -- until the jewelry begins turning up in an antiques shop.
The owner of Star Antiques, Inez Ferry, a 55-year-old widow still trying to come to grips with the loss of her beloved husband, also rents the apartments above the store to a diversity of less than savory middle-class characters. After Ferry finds the items and contacts the authorities, the plodding local detectives eventually come around asking questions but add little more to the case. As fear of the Rottweiler (the media's ill-described nickname for the killer) spreads, the police begin scrutinizing Ferry's employees and tenants. One tenant in particular, a learning-disabled handyman named Will Cobbett, is tagged a suspect for his unusual behavior. But as Cobbett is being interrogated, the real killer is walking the streets, desperately trying to recall what suppressed experience in his past (if any) compels him to kill.
Longtime Ruth Rendell fans will be delighted with The Rottweiler, a masterfully complex psychological thriller powered by a cast of brilliantly developed characters, heart-wrenching subplots, and enough insight into the machinations of the criminal mind to satisfy even the darkest heart. Larded throughout with irony, cynicism, and biting wit, The Rottweiler is yet another masterwork from a master storyteller. Paul Goat Allen
The New York Times
- Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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- 5.15(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.74(d)
Read an Excerpt
The jaguar stood in a corner of the shop between a statue of some minor Greek deity and a jardinière. Inez thought it said a lot about the world we lived in that to most people when you said 'jaguar' they took it to mean a car and not an animal. This one, black and about the size of a very large dog, had once been a jungle creature someone's grandfather, a big game hunter, had shot and had stuffed. The someone had brought it into the shop the day before and offered it to Inez at first for ten pounds, then for nothing. It was an embarrassment having it in the house, he said, worse than being seen in a fur coat.
Inez only took it to get rid of him. The jaguar's yellow glass eyes had seemed to look reproachfully at her. Sentimental nonsense, she said to herself. Who would buy it? She had thought it might seem more attractive at eight forty-five in the morning but it was just the same, its fur harsh to the touch, its limbs stiff and its expression baleful. She turned her back on it and in the little kitchen behind the shop put the kettle on for the tea she always made herself and always shared these days with Jeremy Quick from the top floor.
Punctual as ever, he tapped on the inside door, and came in as she carried the tray back into the shop. 'How are you today, Inez?'
He, and he alone, pronounced her name in the Spanish way, Eeneth, and he had told her the Spanish in Spain, but not in South America, pronounced it like that because one of their kings had had a lisp and they copied him out of deference. That sounded like an apocryphal story to her but she was too polite to say so. She handed him his teacup with a sweetener tablet in the spoon. He always walked about, carrying it.
'What on earth is that?'
She had known he would ask. 'A jaguar.'
'Will anyone buy it?'
'I expect it will join the ranks of the grey armchair and the Chelsea china clock that I'll be left with until I die.'
He patted the animal's head. 'Zeinab not in yet?'
'Please. She says she has no concept of time. In that case, I said, if you've no concept of time, why aren't you ever early?'
He laughed. Inez thought, and not for the first time, that he was rather attractive. Too young for her, of course, or was he? Not perhaps in these days when opinions about that sort of thing were changing. He seemed no more than seven or eight years her junior. 'I'd better be off. Sometimes I think I'm too aware of time.' Carefully, he replaced his cup and saucer on the tray. 'Apparently, there's been another murder.'
'It was on the news at eight. And not far from here. I must go.'
Instead of expecting her to unlock the shop door and let him out, he went back the way he had come and out into Star Street by way of the tenants' entrance. Inez didn't know where he worked, somewhere on the northern outskirts of London, she thought, and what he did had something to do with computers. So many people did these days. He had a mother of whom he was fond and a girlfriend, his feelings for whom he never mentioned. Just once Inez had been invited up to his top-floor flat and admired the minimalist decor and his roof garden.
At nine she opened the shop door and carried the bookstand out on to the pavement. The books that went in it were ancient paperbacks by forgotten authors but occasionally one would sell for 50p. Someone had parked a very dirty white van at the kerb. Inez read a notice stuck in the van's window: Do not wash. Vehicle undergoing scientific dirt analysis. That made her laugh.
It was going to be a fine day. The sky was a soft pale blue and the sun coming up behind the terraces of little houses and the tall corner shops with three floors above. It would have been nicer if the air had been fresh instead of reeking of diesel and emissions and green curry and the consequences of men relieving themselves against the hoardings in the small hours, but that was modern life. She said good morning to Mr Khoury who was (rather optimistically) lowering the canopy at the front of the jeweller's next door.
'Good morning, madam.' His tone was gloomy and dour as ever.
'I've got an earring that's lost its what-d'you-call-it, its post,' she said. 'Can you get it repaired if I bring it in later?'
'I shall see.' He always said that, as if he was doing you a favour. On the other hand, he always did repair things.
Zeinab, breathless, came running down Star Street. 'Hi, Mr Khoury. Hi, Inez. Sorry I'm late. You know I've no concept of time.'
Inez sighed. 'So you always tell me.'
Zeinab kept her job because, if Inez were honest with herself and she nearly always was, her assistant was a better saleswoman than she was. She could have sold an elephant gun to a conservationist, as Jeremy once said. Some of it was due to her looks, of course. Zeinab's beauty was the reason so many men came in. Inez didn't flatter herself, she'd plenty of confidence but she knew she'd seen better days, and though she'd been as good-looking as Zeinab once upon a time, it was inevitable that at fifty-five she couldn't compete. She was far from the woman she had been when Martin first saw her twenty years before. No chap was going to cross the street to buy a ceramic egg or a Victorian candlestick from her.
Zeinab looked like the female lead in one of those Bollywood movies. Her black hair came not just to her waist but to the tops of her slender thighs. In nothing but her hair to cover 3 her she could have ridden a horse down Star Street with perfect propriety. Her face was as if someone had taken the best feature from the faces of half a dozen currently famous film stars and put them all together. When she smiled, if you were a man, your heart melted and your legs threatened to buckle. Her hands were like pale flowers on some tropical tree and her skin the texture of a lily petal touched by the setting sun. She always wore very short skirts and very high-heeled shoes, pure white T-shirts in summer and pure white fluffy sweaters in winter and a single diamond (or sparkling stone) in one perfect nostril.
Her voice was less attractive, her accent not the endearing musical tones of upper-class Karachi but nearer Eliza Doolittle's Lisson Grove cockney, which was odd considering her parents lived in Hampstead and, according to her, she was practically a princess. Today she was wearing a black leather skirt, opaque black tights and a sweater that looked like the pelt of an angora rabbit, white as snow and downy as a swan's breast. She walked daintily about the shop, carrying her teacup in one hand and in the other a rainbow-coloured feather duster, flicking dust off silver cruets, ancient musical instruments, cigarette cases, thirties fruit brooches, Clarice Cliffe plates and the four-masted schooner in a bottle. Customers didn't realise what a task it was keeping a place like this clean. Dust soon gave it a shabby look as if the shop was seldom patronised. She paused in front of the jaguar. 'Where did that come from?'
'A customer gave it to me. After you'd gone yesterday.'
'Gave it to you?'
'I imagine he knew the poor thing wasn't worth anything.'
'There's been another girl murdered,' said Zeinab. 'Down Boston.' Anyone not in the know might have thought she was talking about Boston, Massachusetts, or even Boston, Lincs, but what she meant was Boston Street, NW1, which ran alongside Marylebone Station.
'How many does that make?'
'Three. I'll get us an evening paper the minute they come in.'
Meet the Author
Ruth Rendell has been awarded three Edgars for best novel from the Mystery Writers of America, as well as the Grand Master Award. In England, the Crime Writer’s Association has honored her with three Gold Daggers for best novel, a Silver Dagger, and a Diamond Dagger for outstanding contribution to the genre. She lives in London.
- Date of Birth:
- February 17, 1930
- Place of Birth:
- London, England
- Loughton County High School for Girls, Essex
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There is often a slightly disturbing undertone at the start of Ruth Rendell's novels. The reader is a little on edge, wondering which character is as s/he seems to be. As The Rottweiler's plot unfolds, this sense of unease gives way to a compelling fascination with characters and story. A murderer stalks a London neighborhood garroting young women; even the killer does not understand this compulsion to destroy. Eventually the evil deeds come home to roost, and the tension ratchets up even higher in this psychological thriller. Not just the killer's story is told; there are numerous other characters, some sympathetic, some not, whose lives intertwine with the murderer's, and who have their own problems and pleasures. Ms. Rendell's storytelling is taut, relentless, and irresistible - I highly recommend her latest work.
Once again Ruth Rendell has succeeded in creating a work of wonderfully 'normal' characters that live on the edge of sanity. She is a master at creating multi-faceted characters that are believable and likeable until you get to know some of them better. I so admire and enjoy her understanding of the human psyche in the creation of characters that illustrate we are all just a little bit different.
I have only recently 'discovered' Ruth Rendell for myself, and after a half dozen books find that they are suspenseful while never resorting to predictability. You know mid-way who the culprit is, but it is never clear how things will end for him or her. Meanwhile, there are always a host of other characters who you are just as interested in finding out how their lives will turn out. It is her character development that always pulls me along. That--and knowing that things won't necessarily work out in a happily-ever-after scenario, even if you've come to like a particular character. That's how life is. On a side note, I always enjoy Rendell's books for the glimpse they give me as an American of life in London, complete with unfamiliar turns of phrase--what is a 'bank' holiday, anyway?--and other British society customs. Rendell is always entertaining.
I am definitely a fan of Ruth Rendell. This book still was well written and she did a great job developing the characters. The plot was interesting and it was not predictable. The only problem that I found it was more drawn out than I felt was necessary.
I am an avid reader of Rendell's books and this one was no exception to her best. Excellent character development made this book so much fun to read. It takes you into the inner psyches of each seemingly ordinary person and into the inner core of a psychotic killer. It's so not about the whodunnit but the why. Literate and suspenseful.
In London, the first victim had a bite on her neck so the media dubbed the killer The Rottweiler¿, but that is so far from the truth about this murderer for the next two fatalities failed to include the bite. Instead the serial killer uses a garrote on his or her prey and takes an object from the deceased. Somehow these objec.ts end up in Inez Ferry's antique shop................... The police investigate everyone associated with Inez especially the boarders who reside in a home owned by Inez. Still the killer is clever making no mistakes as the count rises and the collectables show up in her shop. Inez wonders which one of her boarders, friends, or customers is the Rottweiler as she decides she must uncover this serial killer who has made her life a notorious mess before he or she adds her to the count?.............................. The incredible cast including a gloomy London that feels like a Ripper scenario makes this serial killer novel fill the audience with tension that never eases up even when the tale is finished. Several individuals seem sane yet on edge, which obviously can be a result of the murder spree in their neighborhood, but also leads readers and Inez to wonder which one is the killer although the former will not rule out the latter though the culprit appears to be a male. Fans of intense taut thrillers will appreciate Ruth Rendell¿s atmospheric murder mystery................ Harriet Klausner