Tuesday 6 December 2011

Portobello by Ruth Rendell

Ruth Rendell writes under her own name and as Barbara Vine.  Her first novel featured Inspector Wexford.  Since then there have been upwards of 20 books in which he is the main character. These are police procedurals.  The Barbara Vine books are less about murder than about accidental death and the pressures of society.

Her other books, and this is one of them, tend to be loosely described as psychological crime novels, often with socially disadvantaged characters.  It has a quiet feel to it and is possibly not as dark and creepy as some of her books,  but the characters and their odd assortment of psychological idiosyncrasies and flaws are totally absorbing.  She has a particular gift in being able to make the commonplace seem menacing.  In one way you feel you know people like them, and yet at the same time they are extraordinary.

The whole is set, as might be gathered from the title, in and around Portobello Road.  Although they appear to have nothing to do with each other, the characters' lives weave in and out of each other's in unexpected and apparently random ways.  Above all, for me, it brings the area to life:
"The Portobello has a rich personality, vibrant, brilliant in colour, noisy with graffiti that approach art, bizarre and splendid. an indefinable edge to it adds a spice of danger."
  Available from Amazon UK or from Amazon.com