Crime Fiction Alphabet – R is for …

… Ruth Rendell is one of my favourite authors, whether she writes under her own name or her pseudonym, Barbara Vine, so her novel, Tigerlily’s Orchids was an easy choice to illustrate the letter R for Kerrie’s Crime Fiction Alphabet.

Ruth Rendell was born on 17 February 1930 in London. She is Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and has received many awards for her work, including the Crime Writers’ Association Cartier Diamond Dagger (lifetime achievement award), and the Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence.
She is the author of a series of many novels featuring Detective Chief Inspector Wexford, set in Kingsmarkham, a fictional English town. The first of these, From Doon with Death, is also her first novel and was published in 1964. Books in the series include Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter (1992), Simisola (1994), Road Rage (1997), End in Tears (2005), and Not in the Flesh (2007). Under the pseudonym Barbara Vine her books include A Dark-Adapted Eye (1986), A Fatal Inversion (1987), winner of the Crime Writers’ Association Macallan Gold Dagger for Fiction, Gallowglass (1990), King Solomon’s Carpet (1991), Asta‘s Book (1993) and The Brimstone Wedding (1995). The Blood Doctor (2002) is a psychological novel based on the diaries of Lord Henry of Nanther, Queen Victoria’s physician.

In 1996 she was  awarded a CBE in 1996 and in 1997 became a Life Peer –  Baroness Rendell of Babergh.

Tigerlily’s Orchids, published in 2010, is her 60th published book. It’s one of her stand-alone psychological crime novels, full of decidedly disturbing and disturbed characters.

Summary from the book cover

When Stuart Font decides to throw a house-warming party in his new flat, he invites all the people in his building. After some deliberation, he even includes the unpleasant caretaker and his wife. There are a few other genuine friends on the list, but he definitely does not want to include his girlfriend, Claudia, as that might involve asking her husband.

The party will be one everyone remembers. But not for the right reasons. All the occupants of Lichfield House are about to experience a dramatic change in their lives’¦

Living opposite, in reclusive isolation, is a young, beautiful Asian woman, christened Tigerlily by Stuart. As though from some strange urban fairytale, she emerges to exert a terrible spell. And Mr and Mrs Font, the worried parents, will have even more cause for concern about their handsome but hopelessly naive son.

As I began reading this book which starts by introducing the dysfunctional characters living in the building I had that creepy, ominous feeling  Ruth Rendell creates so easily, generated by the sad and sordid lives of the seemingly ordinary people she describes. Part of me didn’t want to carry on reading, but another part felt compelled to read on. There is Olwen who is determined to drink herself to death, Stuart, who is having an affair with Claudia, whose husband knows about it and who threatens and attacks him; a doctor, who writes dodgy medical reviews, a caretaker who spies on young children and three girls who are flat-sharing. Then there are the people living over the road …

Rendell weaves together a story round the various characters, first concentrating on one then another, in a way that made me want to know more about each one. I read it quickly and it’s one that may benefit from re-reading but I don’t want to. By the end I was happy to finish it and return my copy to the library.