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A judgement in stone by Ruth Rendell

A judgement in stone (original 1977; edition 2000)

by Ruth Rendell

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Title:A judgement in stone
Authors:Ruth Rendell
Info:New York : Vintage Books, 2000.
Collections:Your library
Tags:mystery, thriller

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A Judgement in Stone by Ruth Rendell (1977)



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English (10)  Italian (2)  Dutch (1)  All languages (13)
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Ruth Rendell opens the book with a fantastic line “Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write.” The Coverdales are a wealthy family living in Lowfield Hall, a country house in Suffolk. George is manager of his family business and sees himself the local squire. His second wife Jacqueline is an indifferent housewife who, desperate for domestic help, recruits stodgy Eunice Parchman at the beginning of the book. Also living at the Hall are George’s exuberant and attractive daughter Melinda and Jacqueline’s bookish and remote son Giles.

Eunice starts out quite well and soon becomes indispensable, but within just a few months things have gone very wrong and she, along with her accomplice Joan Smith, kill the Coverdales with George’s shotgun on Valentine's Day. This is not a spoiler since the author herself tells you the ending in the first few pages. By the end of the second chapter we know what’s going to happen and even why. This is one of those books that made me wonder if there could be any sort of surprise in its pages. Well....this is one of the most effective suspense novels I've ever read. The tension continues to rise so gradually that by the time I got to the murders I could hardly stand it. Even knowing how it ends doesn't diminish the anxiety.

The structure is probably more like a true crime book than a work of fiction. It's a wonderfully told story and I highly recommend it.

( )
  Olivermagnus | Jan 17, 2016 |
Family mass murder (cp. Gardner’s Live to tell). Rendell has some unpleasant prejudices that are more obvious in her early novels, of which this is one. Eunice Parchman and Joan Smith are troll-like English lower class characters seen through the unsympathetic spectacles of a future member of the House of Lords. How much richer and tragic the novel could have been had the trolls been created with more empathy. As it is, they are figures in a black comedy with Parchman’s attempts to avoid revealing her illiteracy and Smith’s religious mania driving the murder of the Coverdales (who are much more recognizably human, devotees of opera and theology, and definitely untroll-like). ( )
  featherbear | Mar 3, 2015 |
Jacqueline and George are each in their second marriages; his first wife died, her husband deserted her. They are both very happy, and George, wealthy owner of a factory, has purchased a huge Victorian home that is just too large for Jacqueline to manage. Most of the children have left home except for Giles, Jacqueline’s son by her first marriage, a brilliant troubled eccentric, brilliant who hates living in the country, and Melinda, George’s youngest daughter, whom Giles has an incestuous passion for, envisioning her as the wasted tubercular love of his life. In order to lighten Jacqueline’s workload, George decides to hire a housekeeper, and Jacqueline is delighted to discover Eunice Parchman, who even addresses her as “madam.” Eunice, who fudges her references, turns out to be the ideal housekeeper with one exception: she cannot read, and it is this little detail that leads her to eventually kill the entire family. Not that they didn’t try to make her happy. Eunice had her own bedroom and the old telly, and a well-sprung bed; after all, they wanted her to be content and to stay. But they never considered her as a person. They knew nothing of her background, never asked, and if they had, they probably would not have believed it. That she could have attended school without having become literate and learned to love opera. Heavens! Ironically, it’s Melinda’s attempt to learn the truth that initiates the catastrophe. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
Ruth Rendell is such a good writer that she can reveal the plot ending and you still want to read the book just to find out how it all comes together. This was one of her best ones (and I've read many) - almost lyrically written and the family so lovingly drawn that I kept thinking there was no way she was going to kill them off. A great study of psychopathy fueled by illiteracy. ( )
  dihiba | Mar 9, 2013 |
How does conflict within relationships build up to the point of murder? This is the question that Ruth Rendell seeks to answer. Eunice Parchman joins the Coverdale household as a housekeeper and ends by killing her employer and relatives. But how can such a thing happen when Eunice appears to be so bland and self-effacing? The strength of this tale is the narrative built through careful description of incorrect assumptions about a person and the unfortunate misunderstandings that follow. Excellent writing supports a story that tells you in the first fifty pages the bare facts of the crime and the secret Eunice harbors, but then another 200 pages outlines how the conflict built to the point of a massacre. Almost no blood and guts on the page, but not by any means a cozy read. Marvelous early work by Ruth Rendell! ( )
1 vote jillmwo | Apr 10, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ruth Rendellprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Buccianti, RosalbaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Gerald Austin, with love
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Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375704965, Paperback)

What on earth could have provoked a modern day St. Valentine's Day massacre?

On Valentine's Day, four members of the Coverdale family--George, Jacqueline, Melinda and Giles--were murdered in the space of 15 minutes. Their housekeeper, Eunice Parchman, shot them, one by one, in the blue light of a televised performance of Don Giovanni. When Detective Chief Superintendent William Vetch arrests Miss Parchman two weeks later, he discovers a second tragedy: the key to the Valentine's Day massacre hidden within a private humiliation Eunice Parchman has guarded all her life.  A brilliant rendering of character, motive, and the heady discovery of truth, A Judgement in Stone is among Ruth Rendell's finest psychological thrillers.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:38 -0400)

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The Coverdales were nice people, practising the arts of gracious living, concerned with treating their new unforthcoming housekeeper as a fellow human being. If in fact they had been less concerned, their lives might conceivably have been spared.

(summary from another edition)

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