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The Monster in the Box


									The Monster in the Box" is the twenty-second "Inspector Wexford" crime novel by that
esteemed and prolific past mistress of the genre, Ruth Rendell. Rendell, writing as herself
and Barbara Vine, has published more than seventy books, British mysteries/thrillers/
police procedurals. She's won numerous awards, including three Edgars, the highest from
Mystery Writers of America; three Gold Daggers, a Silver Dagger, and a Diamond
Dagger for outstanding contribution to the genre from Great Britain's Crime Writers'
Association. She's been made a lifetime peer, and sits in the House of Lords.

"The Monster" takes us back to the beginning of Wexford's career as a policeman in the
1960's, and as many reviewers have noted, gives us more personal background on him
than we've previously had: included in which is the author's laying of an imaginative and
entertaining red herring into his reminiscences: his meeting of Dora, in Cornwall.
Wexford is also full of amusing asides as to how different the 1960's were than the
present day: but, as many reviewers have also noted, that's a little confusing, as the
present day in this book is the 1990's, which are not actually quite the present day.

At any rate, Wexford finds his way to his base in Kingsmarkham in this book. Outside
the house within which the first murder he investigates took place, he spots a man
walking his dog, Eric Targo; with no evidence at all, decides he is the killer. He continues
to think Targo, who is stalking him, is the killer as a second murder takes place, but tells
nobody of his suspicions, as he's absolutely no evidence against the animal lover. Then
Targo disappears for quite a few years;on his return to town, the odd murders resume.
And one of Targo's pet lions gets loose, an amusing interlude, for sure. Well, many
reviewers have already noted that this is not precisely the most likely of plots, but, in
company with Rendell's always fine writing, it kept me going, I read it at a sitting; and, to
give credit where due, Rendell does come up with a very last minute twist that sure got

Many reviewers - including me -- have also noted Rendell's growing concern with
political correctness, particularly in this Wexford series, and her perhaps over concern,
insofar as the good of her mysteries are concerned, with the women's issues of the day.
This material makes up a subplot about an Asian family in the town; various women of
the Inspector's acquaintance are concerned that the family's bright daughter is to be
forced into an inappropriate arranged marriage. However, most of this concern is
centered in one of Wexford's support staff, Detective Sergeant Hannah Goldsmith; and
this time, at least, Wexford - and his creator - do seem to take the junior detective's pc
concerns with a grain of salt. And Rendell does, in fact, manage to merge subplot and
plot by book's end, very satisfyingly to me.

New readers to Rendell would probably be best served by beginning the Inspector
Wexford works earlier in the series. Longtime readers who have learned to appreciate the
writer's many gifts should appreciate "Monster," even if it isn't quite top of the author's
prolific output; I did.

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