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The Babes in the Wood: A Chief Inspector Wexford Mystery Hardcover – October 21, 2003


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Product Details

  • Series: Rendell, Ruth
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (October 21, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140004930X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400049301
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,974,675 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Wexford fans may be disappointed by the shortage of memorable characters in Rendell's latest mystery to feature the chief inspector, a solid, if not spectacular, entry in the series. As in her previous Wexford, Harm Done (1999), the author explores issues of spousal abuse and focuses on a troubled married couple. The children of Katrina and Roger Dale disappear just as the city of Kingsmarkham is inundated with a flood of quasi-Biblical proportions. Both parents' reactions are somewhat bizarre, with Roger curiously antsy to be done with police questioning to get back to his job and Katrina quite certain her children have already drowned. When the children's babysitter, Joanna Troy, is found dead in a car dumped into a quarry, suspicion points to some icy fundamentalists. These people, from the Church of the Good Gospel, worship at the secluded country estate of Peter Buxton, a media tycoon. Buxton and his high-maintenance wife, the fashion model Sharonne, are among the most interesting fish in this rather bland school. The story becomes progressively more interesting after a slow start, and, as always, Chief Inspector Wexford remains a comfortable companion, with taut, thoughtful and imaginative observations about small-city England and the wider world. FYI: Rendell has won three Edgars, as well as three Gold Daggers and a Diamond Dagger from Britain's Crime Writers' Association.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From The New Yorker

In the matriarchy of British crime fiction, Rendell is the weird sister; her novels concern themselves with the more darkly enigmatic corners of motivation. Her tastes in this direction have sometimes outstripped her readers', and her most recondite tales now appear under the pen name Barbara Vine. Rendell's Chief Inspector Wexford mysteries are a somewhat friendlier affair, and in this, the nineteenth of the series, fans will be pleased to find the Wexfords staving off a flood in their garden and the Inspector's clueless elder daughter in trouble again. The plot—a series of puzzles surrounding the disappearance of two teen-agers in the care of a family friend—marches efficiently to its unguessable dénouement while demonstrating Rendell's grasp of the psychological dynamics of seduction and exploitation which lie at the heart of the case.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By SDRTX on November 16, 2003
Format: Hardcover
It's raining in Kingsmarkham, blinding driving rain that is hard to see through. The kind of rain that has citizens anxiously awaiting the rise of the river with sandbags. This is the backdrop against which a baby-sitter and two teenage children disappear while the parents are on a getaway in Paris. Chief Inspector Wexford and Inspector Burden investigate the disappearances. There is no lack of motives or suspects here including a religious cult, suspicious neighbors, and an ex-husband.
I generally enjoy Ruth Rendell's Wexford series. With this one I felt I should like it rather than really liking it. I found it a bit hard to get into. The cast of secondary characters is not at all likable; I can't think of a single character that I cared about. The plot got fairly involved, but it was paced fairly well. Wexford's personal life gets quite a bit of ink and that's a good thing because he is a very interesting character. There was a very good twist at the climax. Sometimes when you are reading a series, your expectations are high. Overall, it was not as good as other Wexford books. I felt a bit let down.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Billy J. Hobbs VINE VOICE on November 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
"The Babes in the Wood," the latest Inspector Wexford mystery, is a welcomed addition to
the famed Ruth Rendell police procedural series set in England.
Three people have disappeared with few traces. Due to the heavy rains the area of
Kingsmarkam is literally inundated, and it is first assumed, by some, that the three, Joanna Troy,
the baby sittter, and Giles and Sophie Dade, have simply drowned. Of course, Rendell wouldn't
have it so simple and neither would her Inspector. Before long the proverbial body is found and it's
Joanna.
Now the hunt begins for Wexford. Where are the two kids (Giles 15 and Sophie 13)?

Motives for their harm abound. The scene becomes quite complex.
Rendell is simply great with her series; her combination of strong central characters
(Wexford, his family, and Mike Burden, his assistant), a riveting story line, and the usual
outstanding interplay between the characters, the plot, and setting make "Babes in the Wood" a
comfortable companion to the others in this series.
Her fans know that, barring some great literary upheaval, Wexford "will out." The murder
will be solved--this is a given. The author, like others in this genre, most notably P.D. James,
Martha Grimes, and Donna Leon, concentrates on the strength of her central character: his
wisdom and savvy, his personal and internal struggles, his depth of perception, his abilities simly to
solve the case. In addition, Rendell does not hesitate to foray into sensitive and socially significant
issues (spousal and child abuse, racism). Each of her books is an adventure alone, but as the series
progressed the complete picture of a complex and gentle man emerges.
"Babes in the Wood" joints smartly in this stellar series. Wexford, once again, triumphs.
(Billyjhobbs@tyler.net)
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Ruth Rendell's new Inspector Wexford mystery is "The Babes in the Wood," the story of three mysterious disappearances. A babysitter, Joanna Troy, has gone missing with the two adolescents, Giles and Sophie Dade, who were in her care. The neighborhood is flooded after torrential rains and Katrina Dade, Giles's and Sophie's hysterical mother, comes to the tearful conclusion that her children have somehow drowned. Wexford is skeptical about this theory, and he begins his usual thorough investigation.
I have always liked Inspector Wexford. He is a devoted family man who adores his two adult daughters, although he is not blind to their flaws. He is bright, well-read, compassionate, bitingly funny, and tremendously intuitive. Wexford has an uncanny knack for recognizing liars. Since "The Babes in the Wood" is filled with liars, Wexford has many occasions to test his skill at separating truth from fiction.
Rendell does her usual workmanlike and competent job of setting up her complicated plot, and the characters are a varied and lively bunch. The biggest problem with this novel is that the pace is, at times, a bit static. For large portions of the book, Wexford interviews the relatives and acquaintances of the missing people. These interviews are not scintillating enough to keep the book moving at a fast clip.
However, the mystery has an unexpected and clever solution, and Wexford once again proves that he is a shrewd detective and an excellent judge of human nature. Rendell displays her marvelously mordant sense of humor and her jaded view of human nature. She is truly a misanthrope's delight. Most of the characters in "The Babes in the Wood" are selfish, disturbed, or manipulative. Although "The Babes in the Wood" is not Rendell's best work, it is entertaining enough. Devoted fans of the inimitable Inspector Wexford will find it a pleasure to observe the wheels turn as he slowly but surely gets to the bottom of a strange and perplexing case.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Karen Sampson Hudson on November 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Ruth Rendell's latest, "The Babes in the Woods", will delight devoted readers with her usual blend of psychological insight and murder mystery. Unlike some of her earlier, lengthier works, this book moves quickly, as Chief Inspector Wexford deals with the disappearance of two local teenagers and their babysitter. On his own home front, he is puzzled and worried over his adult daughter's choice of boyfriends; this counterplot is woven seamlessly into the main plot, in prime Rendell style.
Rain and more rain falls; a deluge comes upon the area, complicating the investigation and darkening the moods of even the hardiest characters. In true British fashion, they weather the storm; the sun returns, the mystery is solved, and the reader closes the book with a satisfied sigh. "The Babes in the Woods" is a good introduction to new Rendell readers, and is highly recommended to those who already have been enjoying her skillful plotting and agile prose.
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