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Dark Corners: A Novel by Ruth Rendell
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Dark Corners: A Novel (2015)

by Ruth Rendell

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I used to be a big Ruth Rendell fan, but this book reminds me why I stopped reading her books over a decade ago – they started to feel too detached from reality.

In Dark Corners, Carl at 23 has just got a publishing deal and inherited a house in Maida Vale. By any standards, he is extraordinarily privileged. But when he sells some slimming pills to a friend and she dies, even though he has not committed a crime, he fears publicity and this sets in chain a series of events that have profound consequences.

It’s not a bad set up, but the characters all feel strange and unconvincing. Carl (remember, he’s 23) allows himself to be blackmailed because he is afraid of the story being printed in his local paper! What person of his age reads, or even considers the existence of, their local paper? If he’d feared trolling on social media that might have been more believable, but as a struggling writer he’d be just as likely to welcome the attention. He’d be Instagramming his anguish, while his agent would be lining up interviews where he talked movingly of his remorse, while being photographed with a stack of hardbacks behind him on this bookcase.

There are other examples that seem to belong to another era. A couple of his contemporaries introduce themselves to him as ‘Mr and Mrs’ because they think it will make them seem ‘respectable’. Worse, the flawless plotting is notably absent. There’s a subplot which is equally implausible and which is not resolved by the end of the book. Rendell's flawless prose is still there (thankfully it was at least an easy read) but I found myself skimming just to get to the end.

I picked this up because it was Ruth Rendell’s last book but it is not one I’d recommend. She wrote so many great books, but sadly this isn't one of them.
*
A longer version of this review first appeared on my blog https://katevane.wordpress.com/ ( )
  KateVane | Jul 29, 2017 |
My 1st Ruth Rendell - I am thinking I should have made a different title as my 1st Rendell - this was ok, short and quick - basically how an average guy gets caught doing something he shouldn't have done, and although not technically illegal ends up being reverse blackmailed by his 2nd floor tenant- this occurs, simply because he doesn't want bad press and the well known person involved is dead. This leads to paranoia, then murder and then...2nd attempt of murder --- The end was a bit of moral lesson. I am not sure I would recommend but if you like a Twilight Zone twist of a Murder she Wrote type theme... then this might be for you! ( )
  booklovers2 | Feb 23, 2017 |
I've been a Ruth Rendell fan for many years and it was with a real sense of sadness that I began this novel knowing it would be her last. I felt it was possibly a little unfinished, some characters felt slightly one dimensional but as a portrayal of psychological disintegration it was masterful.
As a reader Carl's descent into paranoia and eventual alcoholism was portrayed subtlety and completely believably. As someone who has suffered from nightmare neighbours in the past that sense of always being on edge bought up nasty memories. The main storyline is the one that kept me reading however, I found the sub-plots regarding Lizzie and her father a little random and odd.
This was a good read but not a patch on her earlier work which I intend to re-read as soon as I possibly can.
I received an ARC in return for an honest review. ( )
  angelaoatham | Feb 21, 2017 |
The usual stuff from Rendell, not her best ( )
  bookenthusiast100 | Jul 20, 2016 |
Dark Corners by Ruth Rendell is a 2015 Scribner publication. I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Ruth Rendell, who also wrote as Barbara Vine, passed away in 2015, just a few months before this book was published. I had planned on centering a blog post around Ruth, featuring a review of this, her final book, but sadly, every time I picked it up, I could not, for the life of me, stay interested.

But, I needed to turn in a review for the book, one way or another, so I started all over from the beginning, and forged ahead, determined to make it all the way through, without giving up.

Carl, a novelist, inherits his father’s large and unusual supply of home remedies, along with a nice home, but needs help making ends meet, so he rents out an upstairs room, and quickly becomes rather dependent on that income.

When his friend, Stacey, an actress, desperate to lose weight, sees his father’s diet pills, Carl agrees to sell her some, a transaction Carl’s new tenant witnesses. So, when Stacey dies suddenly, the pills being a major contributor to her death, Carl finds himself suffering from a moral dilemma, and worried he could be held responsible. But, his problems are compounded by his tenant’s decision to blackmail Carl.

From here the story becomes a cat and mouse game between Carl and his tenant, with a slight amount of dark humor tossed in. Carl, who is normally a little bland and mild-mannered, begins to slowly unravel as his conscience weighs on him and he begins to crumble under the pressure of being blackmailed and the ever present possibility his dark secret will be exposed.

Alongside this story, is a secondary thread, that slowly intersects with Carl’s story, and while it’s rather odd, it was also weirdly absorbing.

Although I was determined to get this book finished, I still found it very slow going, and plodded through it at a very slow rate of speed. It was not until the second half of the book that things really started to pick up and the suspense began to build in earnest.

Despite the fact that my interest was finally peaked, the story was still pretty predictable, except for Lizzie’s situation, which I could never quite figure out. The plot was rather clever, but not exactly unique.
For me the ending was extremely abrupt and just plain… well plain. I felt like I had gone through all of this for nothing, although I probably should have guessed this was how things would play out.

I really hate that this was Ruth’s last impression, because this is not her best effort. But, one must remember that the author was in her mid-eighties when she passed and I certainly hope my mind will be that sharp if I am lucky to live that long.

I have a nice collection of Ruth Rendell novels and a smattering of her Barbara Vine stories too. I enjoyed the long running Inspector Wexford series as well, and someday I hope to complete my collection of those books.

I still plan to feature Ruth on the blog someday and pay tribute to her and her work, as she was one of my favorite mystery writers for a long time.
Even though this book failed to make a huge impression on me, it’s still a solid enough effort, and any diehard fan of Ruth Rendell will want to add this book to their collection. ( )
  gpangel | Jul 2, 2016 |
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For many years Wilfred Martin collected samples of alternative medicines, homeopathic remedies, and herbal pills.
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"When his father dies, Carl Martin inherits a house in an increasingly rich and trendy London neighborhood. Carl needs cash, however, so he rents the upstairs room and kitchen to the first person he interviews, Dermot McKinnon. That was colossal mistake number one. Mistake number two was keeping his father's bizarre collection of homeopathic "cures" that he found in the medicine cabinet, including a stash of controversial diet pills. Mistake number three was selling fifty of those diet pills to a friend, who is then found dead. Dermot seizes a nefarious opportunity and begins to blackmail Carl, refusing to pay rent, and creepily invading Carl's space. Ingeniously weaving together two storylines that finally merge in one shocking turn, Ruth Rendell describes one man's spiral into darkness-- and murder-- as he falls victim to a diabolical foe he cannot escape" --… (more)

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