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The Monster in the Box (Inspector Wexford, Book 22) (edition 2010)

by Ruth Rendell

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4831621,297 (3.45)16
Member:Tavelle
Title:The Monster in the Box (Inspector Wexford, Book 22)
Authors:Ruth Rendell
Info:Scribner (2010), Edition: 1 Reprint, Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:Mystery

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The Monster in the Box by Ruth Rendell

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It's always a pleasure to find an Inspector Wexford book I haven't yet read - they have a certain quality you can rely on. This, like some of Rendell's other books, wasn't so much a whodunnit as an already-knowing-whodunnit and just needing to prove it, but this is clear from the start and not a problem. Interwoven with the main storyline was the mystery of a local Muslim girl who has been taken out of school and spirited away to stay with relatives. What could we be looking at here: forced marriage? Honour killing? Ruth Rendell calmly works through all the knee-jerk reactions but you know that an author of her stature will not resort to stereotypes. Notably, one of the most intriguing characters was Mrs Qasi, the Muslim with a bottle of sherry on the sideboard for guests. ("I celebrate Christmas like any other British citizen whilst not believing in the faith behind it - again like most British citizens" - brilliant, brilliant).

It was enjoyable, too, to hear a little bit about Wexford's past, his early career and how he met his wife. A pleasant feeling of nostalgia at the end of this long running series. ( )
  jayne_charles | Apr 23, 2016 |
Inspector Wexford just knows that the man walking his dog has killed someone, maybe several someones. He obsesses throughout the book, trying to find some proof that Targo is a killer. Meanwhile, his assistant is also trying to prove a crime has been committed or is being planned. The two muck about trying to find evidence to back up their assumptions. j

This book was a hard read for me. I didn't feel close to any of the characters, they all seemed a little flat or understated. Maybe being a dog person, I was just annoyed that the "bad guy" loved dogs more than people. This was the first Ruth Rendell book I've read. I'll give her another try, despite rather not liking this book. ( )
  debs913 | Apr 2, 2016 |
Reg Wexford spots in the street the man he believes committed a murder and got away with it; the first murder he investigated as a junior officer some 40 years earlier. Not unnaturally seeing Eric Targo like this puts Wexford in a reflective mood and he reveals to his fellow officer Mike Burden the events that occurred during and after that first investigation. He also spends a fair amount of time in contemplation of his early personal life, including how he met his wife and other events that took place prior to the first novel in the series. When Targo is possibly involved in a new crime things become more critical. At the same time Mike’s wife Jenny, a teacher, and DS Hanna Goldsmith embroil Wexford in a case in which they believe a teenage girl in an Asian family is being prevented from attending school.

The part of the book that deals with Wexford’s obsession with Targo (and Targo’s with Wexford) is compellingly told. I got a really strong sense of why the man bothered Wexford so much and how galling it must be for a policeman to know someone is guilty of murder but not be able to prove that guilt. That such a thing would become an obsession seems perfectly natural in the context of both this story and Wexford’s longer one that has played out over the series. I didn’t think that Targo’s penchant for playing games with Wexford nor his hurriedly described motivations for his crimes rang as true though.

When we move to the ‘case’ of Tamima Kahn and her family I found the book less successful all together. Both Jenny Burden and Hanna Goldsmith are well-intentioned but utterly patronising in their attitudes to the Kahns (and any other Asians encountered) and I’m not convinced that Rendell acknowledging this within the story (by having one of the extended Kahn family tell the two women they are being rude) makes up for it. And even if it does, for me this thread remains far less interesting because of the tone and made the overall book drag a little in places.

The Monster in the Box is apparently to be Wexford’s last outing and in some senses this is fitting in that most people probably finish their careers with a slow whimper rather than a big bang. I can see how fans might think this an unfitting way for him to finish up his career because neither case requires much in the way of Wexford’s investigative skills to resolve and there is a generally unsatisfactory feel about the resolution to both threads. However as a non-fan I thought it one of the best, most believable portrayals of him that I’ve read, not only with respect to his obsession but also his desire to reflect on his own life and the social changes he’s seen in his time as a man and an officer. For that alone the book is worth reading.

What about the audio book?

Nigel Anthony has a quiet voice with a hint of an accent which seems to suit the gentle pace of this story. He doesn’t do a completely different voice for each person but seems to pull off the changes in character with very slight changes in tone or volume. This is my favourite kind of narration and I would definitely look for more audiobooks narrated by Nigel Anthony. ( )
  bsquaredinoz | Mar 31, 2013 |
Ruth Rendell is one of my favorite authors and I like the Wexford series, but this one was a little slow for me. I hung in there, though, and felt rewarded at the end. The plot: a serial killer has stalked Inspector Wexford for decades but there has never been overt evidence linking him to the crimes and because the stalking incidents all looked coincidental Wexford has never had enough grounds to put anyone on his trail. An unexpected pleasure of reading this story was that it takes Wexford down a personal memory lane and I got a chance to learn some background on this great character. ( )
  naimahaviland | Jan 7, 2013 |
Not QUITE the last of Inspector Wexford (huzzah!) even though the end is drawing inexorably closer (pshaw, pshaw). This next-to-latest in the series has its roots in the early days of Wexford's career, when he became convinced that Eric Targo was a murderer. For years, his life and Targo's have intersected, in large part -- Wexford believes -- because Targo is taunting him. Eventually, the novel moves from the past to the present; Targo reappears, and Wexford is able, at long last, to build a real case against him.

Along the way, we are given a delightful excursion into Wexford's personal past, revealing how he met and married Dora. And we are treated to the usual odd mix of characters, presented with Rendell's usual subtlety. We also have the usual socially-relevant subplot, again involving Asians and the hyper-politically-correct DC Goldsmith. I found the ending a little dissapointing (after all that buildup, I hoped for more of a ahocker) but all in all this is another great read. ( )
  annbury | Jul 20, 2012 |
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Although the plot mechanics linking these two story lines are a bit creaky, it’s a pleasure to have flashbacks to a boyish Wexford in hot pursuit of girls of a certain alluring type.
 
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To Simon, my son, who told me about the box
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He had never told anyone.
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Inspector Wexford tries to convince Mike Burden that a man Wexford has long known, Eric Targo, is the killer behind a series of apparently motiveless murders.

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