The Vault (Chief Inspector Wexford Series #23)

( 39 )

Overview

In the stunning climax to Rendell’s classic 1998 novel A Sight for Sore Eyes, three bodies—two dead, one living—are entombed in an underground chamber beneath a picturesque London house. Twelve years later, the house’s new owner pulls back a manhole cover, and discovers the vault—and its grisly contents. Only now, the number of bodies is four. How did somebody else end up in the chamber? And who knew of its existence?

With their own detectives at an impasse, London police call ...

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The Vault (Chief Inspector Wexford Series #23)

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Overview

In the stunning climax to Rendell’s classic 1998 novel A Sight for Sore Eyes, three bodies—two dead, one living—are entombed in an underground chamber beneath a picturesque London house. Twelve years later, the house’s new owner pulls back a manhole cover, and discovers the vault—and its grisly contents. Only now, the number of bodies is four. How did somebody else end up in the chamber? And who knew of its existence?

With their own detectives at an impasse, London police call on former Kingsmarkham Chief Inspector Wexford, now retired and living with his wife in London, to advise them. Wexford, missing the thrill of a good case, jumps at the chance to sleuth once again. His dogged detective skills and knack for figuring out the criminal mind take him to London neighborhoods, posh and poor, as he follows a complex trail leading back to the original murders a decade ago.

But just as the case gets hot, a devastating family tragedy pulls Wexford back to Kingsmarkham, and he finds himself transforming from investigator into victim. Ingeniously plotted, The Vault is a “masterful” (The Seattle Times) sequel to A Sight for Sore Eyes that will satisfy both longtime Wexford fans and new Rendell readers alike.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Inspector Wexford is back! After being missing in action since 2009, former Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford returns from retirement in this standalone sequel to A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ruth Rendell's popular 1999 novel. Detective Superintendant Thomas Ede coaxes Wexford into active duty, using the lure of four recently discovered corpses and an unidentified culprit. Of course, unraveling interlocking mysteries is what Wexford does best. Another triumph from "the reigning queen of crime fiction."

From the Publisher
"Ruth Rendell is bidding to join Defoe and Dickens in creating one of the great criminal cities of literature."—The Independent (UK)

“Ruth Rendell has written an astounding 59 novels. All are reason to rejoice, but this 60th, starring the beloved Reginald Wexford, is worth shouting about from the rooftops… [A] classic Rendell tale.” Carol Memmott, USA Today

“[A] fiendish plot… Wexford hasn’t lost his touch.”Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review

“This is Ruth Rendell at her authoritative best.”—Muriel Dobbin, Washington Times

Publishers Weekly
In Rendell's fine follow-up to A Sight for Sore Eyes (1999), a non-Wexford novel in which a working-class aesthete's quest for beauty earned him an ugly, unexpected end, horror strikes the home improvement plans of Martin and Anne Rokeby. The couple are seriously disconcerted to discover multiple bodies in varying states of decay in a long-forgotten vault beneath their London garden. In the art world, the Rokebys' address is famous as the setting of a '70s-era masterpiece, Marc and Harriet in Orcadia Place, a painting depicting a rock star and his girlfriend. Though Inspector Wexford has retired, the police soon summon him to help solve this most gothic case. Has more than one killer used the vault as a body dump? Rendell's recent style can feel a bit anemic when contrasted with that of A Sight for Sore Eyes, and she populates this sequel with people who resemble sketches rather than vivid, complex characters. Still, this easily outshines most of the competition on either side of the Atlantic. (Sept.)
Library Journal
This sequel to Rendell's 1999 A Sight for Sore Eyes—and the 23rd installment of her Inspector Wexford series—begins with the discovery of four bodies under the patio of a lovely cottage in the exclusive London suburb of St. John's Wood. Three of the victims died 12 years ago, but the fourth body, that of a provocatively dressed young woman, has been in the vault for only two years. Stymied in their attempts to identify the victims and discover how they came to their violent ends, the London police call in the retired but restless Wexford to serve as a consultant. VERDICT Rendell crams so many characters and plotlines into her story that some readers may have difficulty keeping it all straight and remaining engaged. This experienced author, however, does an admirable job of tying everything together in the end. Recommended for procedural fans and for Rendell's many faithful readers.—Jane la Plante, Minot State Univ. Lib., ND
Kirkus Reviews

Ex–Chief Inspector Wexford returns from retirement to solve a most unlikely case: the mystery of who killed the three people whose corpses were last seen at the bottom of a coal hole inA Sight for Sore Eyes(1999).

In the decade since Franklin Merton left St. John's Wood in 1998, Orcadia Cottage has changed hands twice by the time Martin Rokeby, who wants to make room for an amphora his wife Anne found in Florence, pulls up a manhole cover in his backyard and shines a light down a dark shaft to reveal not only the three victims from Rendell's earlier tale but a fourth, much more recently dead than the others but equally beyond identification. Det. Supt. Thomas Ede, of Cricklewood, is getting nowhere with the case, so he invites Reg Wexford, who's retired to Hampstead Heath, to join him as an unpaid consultant. "I'm an amateur detective now," thinks Wexford, though one accorded much less respect than Poirot or Lord Peter. Accompanying Ede and his sergeant, Lucy Blanch, on interviews, he ventures several guesses as to the identities of the dead—Merton's vanished second wife, Harriet? The young man seen driving an Edsel and heard calling himself Keith Hill? His uncle, from whom he may have taken his name and much more? Orcadia neighbor Mildred Jones's cleaner Vladlena, who memorably burned the shirt of her then-husband Colin?—and then watches as he's proved right or wrong. Nor does he simply watch, for trauma and tragedy are about to visit Wexford's own family in equally unnerving ways.

Though this sequel doesn't pack the punch of the earlier novel, which never seemed in need of a sequel, it's an undoubted tour de force likely to offer enjoyment both to readers with long memories and to those approaching it as a stand-alone.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451624106
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 7/3/2012
  • Series: Chief Inspector Wexford Series , #23
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 194,578
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.28 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

Ruth Rendell

Ruth Rendell has won numerous awards, including three Edgar Awards, the highest accolade from Mystery Writers of America, as well as four Gold Daggers and a Diamond Dagger for outstanding contribution to the genre from England’s prestigious Crime Writer’s Association. A member of the House of Lords, she lives in London.

Biography

From the start of her illustrious career, Ruth Rendell's novels have blurred the distinction between literature and commercial fiction. Although Rendell is classified as a writer of mysteries and crime thrillers, her elegant prose and superb literary skills elevate her far above the conventions of those genres.

Born Ruth Barbara Grasemann in London in 1930, she attended the Loughton County High School for Girls in Essex, then went to work as a features writer for the Essex newspapers. In 1950, she married her boss at the newspaper, journalist Donald Rendell. (They divorced in 1975, remarried two years later, and remained together until his death in 1999.) For the next decade, she juggled marriage, motherhood, and part-time writing. She produced at least two unpublished novels before hitting pay dirt in 1964 with From Doon with Death, the first mystery to feature Chief Inspector Reginald 'Reg' Wexford of the Kingsmarkham Police Force. An immediate bestseller, the book launched Rendell's career and marked the beginning of one of the most successful and enduring series in detective fiction.

In 1965, Rendell published her second novel, a deft crime thriller (with no police presence) entitled To Fear a Painted Devil. For 20 years, she was content to alternate installments in the Wexford series with a steady stream of bestselling standalones that explored darker themes like envy, sexual obsession, and the tragic repercussions of miscommunication. Then, in 1986, she began a third strand of fiction under the name Barbara Vine. The very first of these books, A Dark-Adapted Eye, earned a prestigious Edgar Award.

From the get-go, the pseudonymous Vine novels had a separate DNA, although Rendell has always had difficulty pinpointing the distinction. In an interview with NPR, she tried to explain: "I don't think the Barbara Vines are mysteries in any sense. I must say that. They are different, and that is partly how I decide. The idea would come to me and I would know at once whether it was to be a Barbara Vine or a Ruth Rendell ... The Barbara Vine is much more slowly paced. It is a much more in-depth, searching sort of book; it doesn't necessarily have a murder in it. It's almost always set partly in the past, sometimes quite a long way in the past. And I think all these things come together and make them very different from the Ruth Rendells."

Under both names, Rendell has garnered numerous awards, including three American Edgars and multiple Gold and Silver Daggers from England's distinguished Crime Writers' Association. In 1996, she was made a Commander of the British Empire; and in 1997, a Life Peerage was conferred on her as Baroness Rendell of Babergh. Although, in her own words, she was "slightly stunned" by the peerage, she takes her responsibilities quite seriously, writing in the mornings and attending the House of Lords several afternoons a week.

Praise for Rendell is lavish and seemingly unqualified. John Mortimer once proclaimed that she would surely have won the Booker if she had not been pigeonholed as a "crime writer." Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison has identified Rendell as one of her favorite authors. And Joyce Carol Oates has called her "one of the finest practitioners of the craft in the English-speaking world."

Good To Know

While working as a journalist, Rendell once reported on a local club's annual dinner without actually attending. Her story omitted the crucial fact that the after-dinner speaker had dropped dead at the podium in the middle of his speech! She resigned before being fired.

The pseudonym Barbara Vine derives from the combination of Rendell's middle name and her great-grandmother's maiden name.

"I wouldn't keep my age a secret even if I had the chance," Rendell has said. "But I don't have the chance. Regularly, on February 17, the newspapers tell their readers my age."

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    1. Also Known As:
      Barbara Vine
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 17, 1930
    2. Place of Birth:
      London, England
    1. Education:
      Loughton County High School for Girls, Essex

Read an Excerpt

1

ACURIOUS WORLD WE live in,” said Franklin Merton, “where one can afford a house but not a picture of a house. That must tell us some profound truth. But what? I wonder.”

The picture he was talking about was Simon Alpheton’s Marc and Harriet in Orcadia Place, later bought by Tate Britain—simply “the Tate” in those days—and the house the one in the picture, Orcadia Cottage. His remark about the curious world was addressed to the Harriet of the picture, for whom he had bought it and whom he intended to marry when his divorce came through. Later on, when passion had cooled and they were husband and wife, Franklin said, “I didn’t want to get married. I married you because I’m a man of honour and you were my mistress. Some would say my views are out-of-date, but I dispute that. The apparent change is only superficial. I reasoned that no one would want my leavings, so for your sake, the decent thing was to make an honest woman of you.”

His first wife was Anthea. When he deserted her, he was also obliged to desert their dog, O’Hara, and to him that was the most painful thing about it.

“You don’t keep a bitch and bark yourself,” he said to Harriet when she protested at having to do all the housework.

“Pity I’m not an Irish setter,” she said, and had the satisfaction of seeing him wince.

They lived together for five years and were married for twenty-three, the whole time in that house, Orcadia Cottage or number 7a Orcadia Place, London NW8. Owing to Franklin’s sharp tongue, verbal cruelty, and indifference, and to Harriet’s propensity for sleeping with young tradesmen in the afternoons, it was not a happy marriage. They took separate holidays, Franklin going away ostensibly on his own but in fact with his first wife, and he came back from the last one only to tell Harriet he was leaving. He returned to Anthea and her present Irish setter, De Valera, intending to divorce Harriet as soon as feasible. Anthea, a generous woman, urged him to do his best to search for her, for Harriet couldn’t be found at Orcadia Cottage. The largest suitcase, most of her clothes, and the best of the jewellery he had bought her were missing, and Franklin’s belief was that she had gone off with her latest young man.

“She’ll be in touch as soon as she’s in need,” said Franklin to Anthea, “and that won’t be long delayed.”

But Harriet never got in touch. Franklin went back to Orcadia Cottage to look for some clue to where she might have gone but found only that the place was exceptionally neat, tidy, and clean.

“One odd thing,” he said. “I lived there for all those years and never went into the cellar. There was no reason to do so. Just the same, I could have sworn there was a staircase going down to it with a door just by the kitchen door. But there isn’t.”

Anthea was a much cleverer woman than Harriet. “When you say you could have sworn, darling, do you mean you would go into court, face a jury, and say, ‘I swear there was a staircase in that house going down to the cellar’?”

After thinking about it, Franklin said, “I don’t think so. Well, no, I wouldn’t.”

He put the house on the market and bought one for Anthea and himself in South Kensington. In their advertisements the estate agents described Orcadia Cottage as “the Georgian home immortalized in the internationally acclaimed artwork of Simon Alpheton.” The purchasers, an American insurance broker and his wife, wanted to move in quickly, and when Franklin offered them the report his own surveyors had made thirty years before, they were happy to do without a survey. After all, the house had been there for two hundred years and wasn’t likely to fall down now.

CLAY AND DEVORA SILVERMAN bought the house from Franklin Merton in 1998 and lived there until 2002 before returning to the house they had rented out in Hartford, Connecticut. The first autumn they spent at Orcadia Cottage the leaves on the Virginia creeper which covered the entire front and much of the back of the house turned from green to copper and copper to red and then started to fall off. Clay Silverman watched them settle on the front garden and the paving stones in the back. He was appalled by the red, sticky, sodden mass of leaves on which he and Devora slipped and slid and Devora sprained her ankle. Knowing nothing about natural history and still less about gardening, he was well-informed about art and was familiar with the Alpheton painting. It was one of his reasons for buying Orcadia Cottage. But he had assumed that the green leaves covering the house that formed the background to the lovers’ embrace remained green always and remained on the plant. After all of them had fallen, he had the creeper cut down.

Orcadia Cottage emerged as built of bricks in a pretty pale red colour. Clay had shutters put on the windows and the front door painted a pale greenish gray. In the paved yard at the back of the house was what he saw as an unsightly drain cover with a crumbling stone pot on top of it. He had a local nursery fill a tub with senecios, heathers, and cotoneaster to replace the pot. But four years later he and Devora moved out and returned home. Clay Silverman had given £800,000 for the house and sold it for £1.5 million to Martin and Anne Rokeby.

The Rokebys had a son and daughter; there were only two bedrooms in Orcadia Cottage, but one was large enough to be divided and this was done. For the first time in nearly half a century the house was home to children. Again there was no survey on the house, for Martin and Anne paid cash and needed no mortgage. They moved into Orcadia Cottage in 2002 and had been living there for four years, their children teenagers by this time, when Martin raised the possibility with his wife of building underground. Excavations to construct an extra room or two—a wine cellar, say, or a “family room,” a study, or all of those things—were becoming fashionable. You couldn’t build on to your historic house or add an extra story, but the planning authority might let you build subterraneanly. A similar thing had been done in Hall Road, which was near Orcadia Place, and Martin had watched the project with interest.

A big room under Orcadia Cottage would be just the place for their children to have a large-screen television, their computers, their ever-more-sophisticated arrangements for making music, and maybe an exercise room too for Anne, who was something of a workout fanatic. In the late summer of 2006 Martin began by consulting the builders who had divided the large bedroom, but they had gone out of business. A company whose board outside the Hall Road house gave their name, phone number, and an e-mail address were next. But the men who came round to have a look said it wouldn’t be feasible. A different firm was recommended to him by a neighbour. One who came said he thought it could be done. Another said it was possible if Martin didn’t mind losing all the mature trees in the front garden.

Martin and Anne and the children all went to Australia for a month. The house was too old, prospective builders said; it would be unwise to disturb the foundations. Others said it could be done but at a cost twice that which Martin had estimated. They said all this on the phone without even looking at it. Nevertheless, he applied to the planning authority for permission to build underneath the house. The project was put an end to when planning permission was refused, having had a string of protests from all the Rokebys’ neighbours except the one who had recommended the builder.

All this took about a year. In the autumn of 2007 the Rokebys’ son, who had been the principal family member in favour of the underground room, went off to university. Time went on and the plan was all but forgotten. The house seemed bigger now their daughter was away at boarding school. In the early spring of 2009 Martin and Anne went on holiday to Florence. There, in a shop on the Arno, Anne fell in love with a large amphora displayed in its window. Apparently dredged up from the waters of the Mediterranean, it bore a frieze round its rim of nymphs and satyrs dancing and wreathing each other with flowers.

“I must have that,” said Anne. “Imagine that replacing that hideous old pot.”

“You have it,” Martin said. “Why not? So long as you don’t try getting it on the flight.”

The shop sent it, carefully packed in a huge crate, and it finally arrived in St. John’s Wood in May 2009 by some circuitous route not involving aircraft. A local nursery agreed to plant it with agapanthus and Sedum spectabile, but before this was done, Martin emptied the plants and soil out of the wooden tub, placed the remains of the tub into a black plastic bag, and put it out into the mews for the rubbish collection.

“I’ve often wondered what’s under that lid thing but never bothered to have a look.”

“Now’s your chance,” said Anne, uninterested.

“It’s probably too heavy to lift.”

But it wasn’t too heavy. Martin lifted the manhole cover to disclose a large, dark cavity. He could see nothing much beyond what appeared to be a plastic bag or sheet of plastic lying in the depths. Better get a torch, he thought, and he did, thus wrecking his life for a long time to come.

An exaggeration? Perhaps. But not much of one. By shining that torch down into the dark cavity, he gained a place for his wife and himself and his home on the front page of every daily newspaper, put an end to his and his family’s peace for months, attracting mobs of sightseers to the street and the mews, reducing the selling price of his house by about a million pounds, and making Orcadia Place as notorious as Christie’s home in Notting Hill and the Wests’ in Gloucester.

© 2011 Kingsmarkham Enterprises Limited

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 39 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(26)

4 Star

(4)

3 Star

(3)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 39 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2011

    Love Ruth Rendell!

    Anything Ruth Rendell writes is a great read. When I first discovered Ruth Rendell I thought of her as a female Alfred Hitchcock. Her stories are unique, never dull and will turn you on your head at times. She writes about situations you would consider a dark thought if they were yours. Her characters are developed gradually and at the end you understand why they are as they are. I have read everything Ruth Rendell has written and can't wait for her next book.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 22, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Dark Hole

    Old soldiers may just fade away, but apparently not so Reginald Wexford. Retired as a chief inspector, free to read and enjoy his leisure, now that he also has access to a second home in London, he is chomping at the bit. When he gets a phone call from Tom Ede, now a detective superintendent, asking him to act as a consultant on an unusual case, he jumps at the chance.

    The police investigation is at a standstill. Four bodies were discovered down a coal chute, three apparently there for more than a decade, another just a couple of years. Who are they? Why hadn’t they been discovered before? Why were they murdered, and who killed them? Painstakingly, Wexford pursues each elusive “clue,” logically and doggedly. Just as important is his intuition, which propels him forward, conjuring new theories and assisting his analysis.

    Artfully written, the author provides a sweeping view of London as Wexford follows the various paths leading to solving the mystery. Especially poignant is a side story involving Wexford’s daughter.

    Recommended.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 5, 2012

    Highly Recommended-please check it out

    This was my first Inspector Wexford book and it will not be my last. It held my interest and peaked my curiosity throughout. A retired inspector being asked to help the police on a tough and old case adds his experience and knowledge to the local police. He also has a few problems of his own to sort out. But all the twists and turns of the story keeps the readers attention until the very end.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2011

    Keep it in the vault

    What a bloody disappointment. Too many characters and no surprises and dull dull dull.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2011

    Check this one out

    I have read many books by Ruth Rendell,and I would recommend this one to everyone who enjoys a good mystery.I would also recommend it for a book discussion.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 22, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Yawn

    What started out promisingly enough tuned into quite a dull book. The pace just plodded along with little suspense being built as not a whole lot was happening. A waste of my time.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 14, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Wexford rules - as always!

    So far: Rendell is my favorite author, Wexford is one of my favorite characters, and "Sight for Sore Eyes" had one of Rendell's best villains - really looking forward to this!

    After finish:
    It was so good to see Wexford again, I didn't mind that not much attention was paid to Teddy, the villain of "Sight for Sore Eyes." There was a new quirk added, just to make things interesting, and I enjoyed following that. Also, Wexford's daughter Sylvia once again did something really boneheaded. I disapprove of parents who have a favorite child; and I still think that their blatant preference for Sheila might have damaged Sylvia, and maybe that's why she does boneheaded things. But y'know, she must be in her late 40s by now. I don't blame Wexford and Dora for finally getting fed up with her.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2014

    This

    This

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2014

    Lunamotj

    Lol

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2014

    AL

    Um...

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2014

    BL

    Nice..

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2014

    Sweet Death

    "Bombs ahoy!" Wow, that was funny!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2014

    The vault pt:2

    I hid in the corner of the room hidden from veiw i watched a large group of ponies sitting around a huge stone. Bl walked up the giant stone and stood at the top. He got all the ponies attention i watched silently blue was saying something about a secret crime organization he laid out a giant peice of paper. I climbed up the wall into the rafters and looked curiously at the paper*wait one second*i looked at the paper again*HEY thats the bank what are they doing are they robbing the bank*i looked around *i cant let this happen*i pulled out a bunch of cake and dumped it on top of the ponies and blue lightning*hahahaha*the ponies franticly looked around and one even yelled "WERE UNDER ATTACK"*stupid ponies*i thought. The ponies didnt stop *uum what to do*i looked around and saw a giant bag of rocks i grinned evilly (wich is hard to visulize that because im not evil)i walked along the rafters over to the bag of rocks and tipped it over *bombs ahoy*THE END HAY HAY HAY HOPED YOU ENJOYED IT -Beats dilemma

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 24, 2014

    I Wish Immortality For Wexford

    Although I'd previously read, 'A Sight for Sore Eyes', it was a long time ago, so I decided to give myself a real treat and buy it, and, 'The Vault', for my holiday reading. I was thoroughly satisfied, and highly recommend them. I've been reading Ruth Rendell for years, although I have to be careful to time my reads to coincide with internal sunniness, because she can be very dark. A Sight for Sore Eyes is the kind of Rendell I sometimes need to protect myself from temporarily, but having The Vault to go to right away took away the sting. And in The Vault, Rendell allows us a kind of closure that I wouldn't mind seeing from her more often (although I realize I'm a wuss and she's a genius). On top of that, Wexford seems to grow more and more lovable and admirable with age. I actually found myself hoping that he could stay alive longer than I do, because I think I would mourn him like a real person. Usually I am at best grudgingly tolerant of, or, at worst, downright annoyed at, the side plots in the personal lives of detectives, cops, and amateur sleuths, and the fact that I keep thinking about Wexford's interactions with his granddaughters is further proof for me that Rendell is a genius. Hope she's writing another Wexford right now.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2013

    F

    AWSO?E

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2013

    Where are good chat rooms? Reply to clueless

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2013

    Grey

    "Hi im new i read the rules but i forgot to put NUKA COLA!!!" She falls to her knees.

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2013

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2013

    Strength Yuu

    Noones here. ;n;

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2013

    Stella

    Be right there *smiles*

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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