Monster brings both Rendell and Wexford back in strong form. Invariably, whenever I predicted the plot would go in a certain direction, I was wrong…Ultimately, everything weaves together in Rendell's imaginary town, but more so than ever in The Monster in the Box. We close the book on Inspector Wexford with the knowledge that he has had an illustrious career. And we accept this conclusion because at any time we can return to Kingsmarkham to explore the darker side of humanity with him as our reassuring and humane guide.
The Washington Post
Subversive writer that she is, Ruth Rendell slyly sends up two iconic figures of English societythe animal lover and the guardian of political correctnessin her new Inspector Wexford mystery…it's a pleasure to have flashbacks to a boyish Wexford in hot pursuit of girls of a certain alluring type. It's also a revelation to see how meticulously Rendell reconstructs that long-ago period and place from mere glimpses of a street without cars or an open field where a boy could see the stars.
The New York Times
In Edgar-winner Rendell's 22nd Inspector Wexford novel (after 2007's Not in the Flesh), the British police detective confronts a man from his past, Eric Targo, who he suspects is guilty of multiple murders. Years earlier, Targo stalked and taunted Wexford, daring him to press charges. A squat, creepy bully with a purple birthmark disfiguring his neck, Targo has graduated from smalltime thug to prosperous businessman, ensconced in a nouveau-riche spread complete with private zoo and lion in Kingsmarkham. When Targo apparently commits a murder affecting Wexford's own family, the inspector must re-examine how Targo consistently outsmarts the law. The meeting and mating of Wexford and his wife, Dora, also figure in the backward-looking action. While the reminiscing dilutes some of the suspense, Rendell easily outdistances most mystery writers with her complex characters and her poetic yet astringent style. (Oct.)
Chief Inspector Wexford's 22nd case returns to the late 1990s-and revisits much older territory as well-in tracing his relationship with a respectable citizen he's certain is a murderer. Half a lifetime ago, Reg Wexford (Not in the Flesh, 2008, etc.) cut his teeth on the strangling of Stowerton housewife Elsie Carroll. Wexford's superiors, suspicious when the mistress of Elsie's husband first declined and then insisted on providing him with an alibi, made him their prime suspect. But Wexford was convinced that the killer was Elsie's neighbor, dog-walking Eric Targo, instantly identifiable by the birthmark on his neck. His only evidence: the disconcerting stare Targo returned when he caught Wexford looking at him. Ever since, Wexford tells DI Mike Burden in an extended series of conversations, he's continued to suspect Targo of several stranglings without any solid evidence. A new murder dismayingly close to Wexford is about to focus his suspicions on Targo yet again. Meanwhile, however, he'll be preoccupied by the disappearance of Tamima Rahman, a student of Mike's wife Jenny, whose family DS Hannah Goldsmith is sure has forced her into marriage or killed her to protect the family honor. Wexford, who can't help noticing how closely Hannah's theories mirror his own, wonders if they're both merely acting out obsessive suspicions. At length, however, the two cases collide with a jolt that shows how Wexford can be both way off-base and utterly right. A less impassioned, more valedictory version of Simisola (1995) with a bonus: more information about Wexford's early years than his celebrated creator has ever shared.
“A most pleasing tale, adroitly plotted and deftly rendered, peopled with characters both original and convincing.”—Robert Wade, San Diego Union Tribune
“Those coming to this masterful series for the first time doubtless will be delighted to make Wexford's acquaintance.”—Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times
“[Targo] is as good a villain as Wexford ever tried to pin down … hauntingly nasty.”—Spectator (U.K.)
“One of the best-written detective series in the genre's history… Everything weaves together in Rendell's imaginary town, but more so than ever in The Monster in the Box.”—Michael Sims, Washington Post