Hail, queen of psychological thrillers

Ruth RendellTo say that Ruth Rendell writes thrillers is to say that Alfred Hitchcock directed scary movies. It is the most under of understatements.

Like Hitchcock, Ruth Rendell gets inside the skins of her disturbed characters. We, the readers, learn to understand the obsessions that serve as their reasonable (to them) and compulsive motives to kill and kill again. Although each of her more than 60 novels involves murders, they rarely are mysteries to her readers. The “who” of the who-done-its are known, and its these characters, both fascinating and repulsive, that keep us turning page after page.

Rendell, whose body of work spans more than 50 years, has won three Edgars in the U.S., as well as four Gold and a Diamond Dagger from England’s Crime Writers’ Association. Whether chronicling a single deranged person as she does in A Judgment in Stone, following the intelligent and sensitive Inspector Wexford in The Vault and 22 other book, or writing as Barbara Vine in A Dark-Adapted Eye and other novels, the British writer has served as a model for me, as I immerse myself in the minds of my characters.

I admire Ruth Rendell’s writing tremendously. She, the late P.D. James, who died in November, and Elizabeth George are among a handful of contemporary master storytellers that I think have set the modern-day standard for intelligent crime novels, crafting three-dimensional characters and rich stories.

If you haven’t read P.D. James, the crime and dystopian novelist whose books Death Comes to Pemberley and The Children of Men were made into a PBS series and movie, respectively, check her out. Although all her Inspector Adam Dalgliesh novels are listed on Goodreads, she has written other excellent novels. Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley also shows up on PBS. Like James, books outside her detective series are enjoyable reading.

However, for believable psychological thrillers, no one does it better than Ruth Rendell, making you give your quirky neighbor a second glance. Do yourself a favor and pick up one of her books. She holds you in thrall all the way through the final page.


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