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A Sleeping Life by Ruth Rendell

A Sleeping Life (1978)

by Ruth Rendell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Inspector Wexford Mysteries (10)

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This is one of those stories where Wexford seemed a bit plodding in coming to the same conclusion as me but then I can't really decide whether or not I had actually read this before, decades ago, when I was focussed on reading Wexford after Wexford.

Wexford's search for the family of the dead woman under the hedge, Rhoda Comfrey, turns up remarkably little information, and in particular he can't find out where she has lived in London for the last twenty years. Wexford calls in a few favours among London police in a desperate attempt to stave off the Chief Constable's threat to hand the case over to Scotland Yard if he hasn't solved it by the end of the week.

Wexford's personal life becomes complicated when his daughter Sylvia leaves her husband and adds herself and her two young sons to stay indefinitely with Dora and Reg. Sylvia is feeling much put-upon, in a women's lib way of thinking, and Reg tries to add his bit of common sense to the brew.

I love the way Rendell weaves the byplay between Reg and his colleague Mike Burden into the investigation, while the ongoing story of Wexford family life hums along in the background.

And Nigel Anthony does an excellent job with the narration. ( )
  smik | Feb 1, 2015 |
A Sleeping Life was originally published in 1964. The Women's Liberation movement is brought into this mystery as a subplot involving the marriage of one of Inspector Wexford's daughters, who wants to have a paying job, not the unpaid ones of wife and mother. While I liked the way Wexford treated his Dora after their daughter made a very cutting remark, I wish he had told that young woman that what she said to her mother wasn't true -- not her parents' relationship, anyway.

In the end we do find out both why the victim was murdered and why it was so difficult to get her London address. I did not see it coming.

As for Wexford's remark about the curate's egg, it comes from a 19th Century magazine cartoon in which the host tells the curate he fears he's gotten a bad egg and the curate assures him that parts of it are excellent. ( )
  JalenV | Jan 10, 2015 |
What a splendid writer Rendell is! Her ongoing characters, particularly of course Inspector Wexford, are always interesting, always changing, yet always consistent. And the characters that determine the plot of each novel, even when they are very strange, are fully realized and believable. Her plots are a delight, leading you forward and then back, but always keeping you involved. And her prose is a delight -- clear, supple, and pleasurable.
In "A Sleeping Life", the good Inspector is faced with a dead woman who appears to have erased any information about the last twenty years of her life. And on the home front, he is faced with a daughter in the grip of Women's Liberation (the book was written in 1979). The book is full of side instghts about men and women, aging, and even hairlines. A delight. ( )
  annbury | Sep 18, 2010 |
I liked this - kept me guessing to the end. ( )
  jayne_charles | Aug 27, 2010 |
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» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ruth Rendellprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Anthony, NigelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brinis, HiliaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jacono, CarloCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Whale, AndyCover photosecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Elaine and Lesley Gray,

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Home early for once. Maybe he'd start getting home early regularly now August had begun, the silly season.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375704930, Paperback)

Rhoda Comfrey's death seemed unremarkable; the real mystery was her life.

In A Sleeping Life, master mystery writer Ruth Rendell unveils an elaborate web of lies and deception painstakingly maintained by a troubled soul. A wallet found in Comfrey's handbag leads Inspector Wexford to Mr. Grenville West, a writer whose plots revel in the blood, thunder, and passion of dramas of old; whose current whereabouts are unclear; and whose curious secretary--the plain Polly Flinders--provides the Inspector with more questions than answers. And when a second Grenville West comes to light, Wexford faces a dizzying array of possible scenarios--and suspects--behind the Comfrey murder.

Brilliantly entertaining, exceptionally crafted, A Sleeping Life evokes the dark realities, half-truths, and flights of fancy that constitute a life.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:52 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

The body found under the hedge was that of a middle-aged woman. The grey eyes were wide and staring, and in them D.I. Wexford thought he saw a sardonic gleam, but that must have been imagination. However, he didn't have much more to go on.

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