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Simisola by Ruth Rendell

Simisola (edition 1995)

by Ruth Rendell

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712813,240 (3.57)7
Authors:Ruth Rendell
Info:Arrow (1995), Mass Market Paperback, 372 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Tags:Inspector Wexford, British mystery, stereo-types, political correctness, slavery

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Simisola by Ruth Rendell



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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
I've been getting used to Ms. Rendell not revealing the source of her Inspector Wexford titles until late in each book, some later than others. For SIMISOLA, we have to wait until almost the last sentence. It's a complex mystery, but the clues were there. I missed many of them until Wexford explained them. I also fell for a few red herrings. (Hey, it beats waiting for the lead character to catch on when one has already figured it out.)

Racism and unemployment are the biggest themes in this thick entry in a good series. Detective Inspector Mike Burden's attitude about both didn't help me dislike him less. Wexford's self-revelation in one scene was something I didn't see coming at all.

Wexford's new doctor's daughter is missing. Miss Akande's movements before her disappearance are proving difficult to trace even though there aren't that many Africans (or persons of African descent) in Kingsmarkham. She's also beautiful. Why didn't she get noticed by more of the locals?

Melanie Akande has the misfortune of being the only one with average intelligence in a family of overachievers. She got her degree in the only subject in which she felt she had talent, but she can't get a job in her field. She was going to see a counselor about that. What a pity that lady became ill.

There are other young women with family troubles in this book. Can they all be sorted out? There are murders and an attempted murder to be solved. Of the mothers in this book, two don't seem to understand that they are pushing their children away by the way they treat them. One may have more of a problem than she thinks. I worry about the future of the youngest mother's child.

Finally! So often Reg and Dora's eldest and her family have been mentioned or appeared with only their first names given. This time we get their surname: Fairfax.

Sylvia and Neil's marriage has been rocky a long time. In KISSING THE GUNNER'S DAUGHTER they bought a house Sylvia loves. Now they're both out of work. Is Sylvia willing to sell? No. The couple do get to save some on food bills and electricity by taking their sons, Robin and Ben, to Reg and Dora's house for dinner a few (several?) times a week. Dora is cooking lovely meals for them. Reg is quietly simmering.

Sylvia Wexford Fairfax is a difficult person, and not just because she knows her father prefers her younger sister to her, no matter how hard Reg tries to hide the fact. Although Sylvia spends most of her page time acting in a way that makes me wish I could give her an old-fashioned 'good talking to,' she actually helps her father with this case. Surprising, yes?

Near the end, something happens to Mike Burden that isn't at all nice for him, but the reaction of the responsible party learning he's a police officer was enjoyable to read.

It's a really good book, both for the mystery and the social commentary. ( )
  JalenV | Jun 15, 2015 |
Another terrific thriller from Ruth Rendells, whose books for me have become as much examinations of current society as mystery stories. That's not to downplay the mystery; as usual, I was drawn on through the book by the story and the question, not just "who done it?" but "who did they do it to?". This time, Ms. Rendell focuses on the question of immigrants into Britain, black immigrants in particular. Chief Inspector Wexford's questioning of his own attitudes let me to consider my own; there may be non-racist people in the UK and the US born before 1975, but I don't think there are many. ( )
  annbury | Mar 26, 2012 |
This book was intended for my Mystery Fiction class, but the professor was unable to find an easy way to procure copies for us; most publishers did not have it in print at the time. Much later, I found a copy at a used-book sale, and so I bought it on the strength of our professor's recommendation.

Thinking back on the course, this book would have been a perfect fit, and its replacement, The Laughing Policeman, touches on similar themes. This book's main story arc is that of Melanie Akande, a young woman who is part of one of the few black families in Kingsmarkham. She disappears one day, but the search for her proves to be a difficult one. Chief Inspector Wexford is called in to solve the case, not only because it is on his turf but also because Melanie's father is his GP.

Over the course of the story, Rendell touches on themes of race and class. Wexford and others on the force deal with their own attitudes to race as they solve the case -- one twist in particular, which I shall not give away, really opens Wexford's eyes on that front. Class and employment are two other important threads to the story: Melanie is the daughter of upper-middle-class parents, but she has resorted to the Job Centre to find work in her chosen field of performing arts, which her parents feel is not good enough for her. All roads lead to the Job Centre, actually, so it plays a major part in the case. It ties to Wexford's personal life, too; his daughter and son-in-law are forced to go on the dole temporarily.

The book was well written, more reminiscent of A Judgement in Stone, which is the only other Rendell novel I've read. I did read one of her books that she wrote as Barbara Vine and found it difficult to get through (I left it unfinished)... fortunately, this book is not like that. It unfolds at a decent pace, and the solution is fair, and there are several twists that I did not see coming. Also, the explanation for the title, which comes right at the end of the book, is very bittersweet. But still, this isn't one of my favourites. Perhaps having it studied in Mystery Fiction would have made it more interesting. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Mar 19, 2011 |
My favourite of the Wexford novels. This begins with an amusingly recounted incident in the doctor's waiting room, and goes on to introduce (it seems) every inhabitant of the town where a young girl has disappeared. Certainly every member of the community with multicultural credentials is rooted out. Such a massive cast only makes the whodunnit side of things more intriguing and challenging, add to that a couple of red herrings and a blind alley or two, and you've got one heck of a good read. ( )
1 vote jayne_charles | Sep 3, 2010 |
Well worth reading especially for Rendell and Wexford fans. ( )
  charlie68 | Jun 8, 2009 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ruth Rendellprimary authorall editionscalculated
Francavilla, A. M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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There were four people besides himself in the waiting room and none of them looked ill.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0099437317, Paperback)

Only eighteen black people live in Kingsmarkham. One of them is Wexford's new Doctor, Raymond Akande. When the doctor's daughter, Melanie, goes missing, the Chief Inspector takes more than just a professional interest in the case. Melanie, just down from university but unable to find a job, disappeared somewhere between the Benefit Office and the bus stop. Or at least no one saw her get on the bus when it came. According to her parents, Melanie was happy at home. She had recently broken up with her boyfriend but, until now, there had been no cause to worry about her. And no one liked to voice the suspicion that something might have happened, that Melanie might be dead ...

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:35 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

In an English town, Inspector Wexford investigates attacks on black women which lead to murder. A study of the slave-like condition of foreign domestics in Britain, who are not given the status of immigrants so they can be deported if they agitate for more money.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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