Finishing this book I felt the words of a pop song eluding me: something along the lines of “Is it you, is it me, I don’t feel it the way I used to…” (Am I wrong to be thinking Gordon Lightfoot here?)
I’ve always found Rendell’s books to be reliable escapes, though sometimes into a world far more disturbing than the one I thought I was evading. This time, though, I found myself faintly bored. And mind you, the novel starts with a murder. It should be difficult to squander the kind of curiosity provoked by an opening scene in which a fifteen-year-old girl has apparently just drowned a man in the bath. Yet somehow Rendell lost me.
I think it was largely a matter of pacing: she’s a good at plotting and I was always able to admire the way she wove the complex connections among her cast of characters. (She relies on coincidence yet manages to make it plausible: after all, life in a metropolis like London does often turn on strage chances.)
She is also excellent at portraying the characters you love to hate, with a special gift for sick mother/son domination. In The Water’s Lovely she focuses on Marion Melville, a cunning schemer whose talent at self-deception gives the reader the upper hand. There’s blackmail, child rape, date rape, an attempted poisoning, a strangling — and still it plodded. Too much time spent in the head of the not-very-interesting protagonist, I think.
Is this an anomaly? I hope so, because if Ruth Rendell’s books are going to stop entertaining me, I’m going to need a new strategy for diversion.