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Talking to Strange Men (1987)

by Ruth Rendell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4501256,578 (3.56)12
"Safe houses and secret message drops, double crosses and defections - it sounds like the stuff of sophisticated espionage, but the agents are only schoolboys engaged in harmless play. But John Creevey doesn't know this. To him, the messages he decodes with painstaking care are the communications of dangerous and evil men, and as he comes face to face with the fact of his beloved wife Jennifer's defection, he begins to see a way to get back at the man she left him for. And soon the schoolboys are playing more than just a game.… (more)
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» See also 12 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
Super dark, and a bit tangled. Child murderer plots turn my stomach. But Rendell doesn't seem to miss very much, there's some power to this story. Another solid portrait of a Bleak British Block. ( )
  Amateria66 | May 24, 2024 |
Slow burn espionage. Two worlds intersect adult and adolescent.
Author displays her excellent observation of human behavior, fantasies and anxieties. ( )
  GeoffSC | Aug 20, 2023 |
Neste inspirado romance, Ruth Rendell tece uma rede de ocorrências e personagens, oferecendo ao leitor uma trama cheia de nuances e imprevistos. No centro do enredo estão dois grupos de adolescentes para quem o mundo da espionagem significa o máximo da aventura. Utilizando mensagens em código e esconderijos secretos, os bandos rivais, compostos por colegiais ingleses, vão se envolvendo em investigações de pequenos casos que ocorrem em seu meio familiar e social. Enquanto isso, desenrola-se o drama de John Creevey, um homem simples, gerente de uma loja de plantas, que tempos atrás teve sua irmã assassinada e que acaba de perder a mulher para outro. Creevey intercepta uma mensagem cifrada e, sem saber com quem está lidando
  bibliotecapresmil | Sep 5, 2022 |
I'm not really sure what I thought of this "two stories that eventually intersect" story. On the one hand I couldn't follow nor was interested in the schoolboy spies story. On the other I was interested in the "hopelessly wants to get back with his ex-wife" story and the very bizarre revelations that came with it. There was definitely a build up of tension once the stories intersected and I'm very glad that one of those stories didn't go the way it could have as that would have been very hard to read. At the end of it all I felt slightly dissatisfied though I can't articulate why. Maybe it's because of all the descriptive passages that don't really add anything to the story or its mood. ( )
  Stephen.Lawton | Aug 7, 2021 |
I registered this book at BookCrossing.com!
http://www.BookCrossing.com/journal/14829516

A small group of private school boys are engaged in a spy game. It's fairly elaborate - there are two opposing groups, each with a leader and with "drop" locations, safe houses, and coded messages.

John Creevey, an adult suffering from his wife's departure, happens upon one of the drops and starts to copy the messages and try to decipher them. He becomes quite involved in the puzzle, and tries to figure out who the rival groups are. Street gangs? Drug lords? Actual spies?

John is obsessed, however, with getting wife Jennifer back. She has taken off with a former lover, boldly. This lover had left her almost at the altar yet she still wants him. John cannot understand it. He tries to find the key - what can he do to win her back?

Through an intersection of John's needs and the boys' spy game, something unexpected and unplanned happens. Was John too careless?

With Rendell you can never be sure of the outcome. She loves to develop complex characters whose motives may not be pure, or may just be muddied. This is a lovely representation of her brilliant mind. ( )
  slojudy | Sep 8, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
A writer who like Rendell refuses to accept the usual limits of the crime story is bound to miss the bull's eye sometimes, and Talking to Strange Men is no more than an outer, even though the main theme is handled with typical assurance...

The idea is ingenious, but even Rendell's skill cannot make the mock spying activities seem plausible, so that the story's would-be tragic finale seems merely confected. It may be that at the moment Ruth Rendell is writing too much-an average of two books a year plus short stories is one that nobody except Simenon has maintained for long without some loss of quality.
added by SnootyBaronet | editWashington Post, Julian Symons
 

» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ruth Rendellprimary authorall editionscalculated
Odom, MelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Safe houses and secret message drops, double crosses and defections - it sounds like the stuff of sophisticated espionage, but the agents are only schoolboys engaged in harmless play. But John Creevey doesn't know this. To him, the messages he decodes with painstaking care are the communications of dangerous and evil men, and as he comes face to face with the fact of his beloved wife Jennifer's defection, he begins to see a way to get back at the man she left him for. And soon the schoolboys are playing more than just a game.

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