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The Monster in the Box: An Inspector Wexford Novel Hardcover – October 13, 2009

102 customer reviews
Book 22 of 24 in the Inspector Wexford Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Edgar-winner Rendell's 22nd Inspector Wexford novel (after 2007's Not in the Flesh), the British police detective confronts a man from his past, Eric Targo, who he suspects is guilty of multiple murders. Years earlier, Targo stalked and taunted Wexford, daring him to press charges. A squat, creepy bully with a purple birthmark disfiguring his neck, Targo has graduated from smalltime thug to prosperous businessman, ensconced in a nouveau-riche spread complete with private zoo and lion in Kingsmarkham. When Targo apparently commits a murder affecting Wexford's own family, the inspector must re-examine how Targo consistently outsmarts the law. The meeting and mating of Wexford and his wife, Dora, also figure in the backward-looking action. While the reminiscing dilutes some of the suspense, Rendell easily outdistances most mystery writers with her complex characters and her poetic yet astringent style. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Although acknowledging Wexford's fascinating foray back in time, critics expressed mixed opinions about Rendell's latest—perhaps last—Inspector Wexford mystery. The most enthusiastic reviews, adopting a nostalgic tone, reminisced about Wexford's years as a young policeman, his personal growth, and the earlier period's cultural milieu. But more critics felt mixed about Rendell's retelling of Wexford's life 30 years before; others criticized the forced, distracting subplot featuring the Muslim girl and Rendell's strained political correctness. The Monster in the Box seems minor compared to previous efforts, and, though interesting, novices may wish to start with one of the earlier books in the series.

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Product Details

  • Series: Inspector Wexford
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (October 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439150338
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439150337
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,474,212 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Tom S. on October 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Eric Targo is a creep, but is he a serial killer? That's the question for Inspector Reginald Wexford in THE MONSTER IN THE BOX. Many years ago, when he was a young cop on the beat, Wexford suspected the strange little man of committing several random murders in Kingsmarkham, Wexford's town in southern England. Wexford never had any evidence or proof, so he never mentioned his suspicions to anyone. Targo knew the young cop suspected him, and he took to taunting him in a weird way--following him around and staring at him. Then he disappeared. Over the years, Wexford's suspicions became a secret obsession.

Now, after many years, Mr. Targo is back in Kingsmarkham, and Wexford's old obsession has resurfaced. He's even begun to stalk Targo, just as he, himself, was once stalked. But is Targo really a monster? Was he ever? Or is it all in Wexford's imagination? Wexford finally breaks his long silence, telling his police partner, Mike Burden, everything he knows and suspects about the man. Mike doesn't believe him at first, but then there's a new murder very much like the old ones....

Ruth Rendell is my favorite mystery writer, and this new book is a real treat for fans. In telling Wexford's history with Eric Targo, Rendell gives us unusual glimpses into his past--including his bachelor days and how he met, courted, and married his wife, Dora, and the eventual births of their daughters, Sylvia and Sheila. These flashbacks arrive throughout the new story, providing a detailed portrait of the inspector. I've been reading his adventures for 30 years now, but I never learned as much about him as I did here.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By sb-lynn TOP 500 REVIEWER on October 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are no spoilers in this review:

I am a HUGE Ruth Rendell fan. I have read all of her books, including those she has written under her pseudonym of Barbara Vine. For those not familiar with her work, she writes magnificent psychological suspense and mystery novels under both the Rendell and Vine names, and a detective series with Inspector Wexford under the Rendell name.

This is a Wexford novel, and as much as I love her books, I admit I am the least enamored with this series, especially some of the latter ones. This is the case with this story.

Brief summary, no spoiler - Inspector Wexford sees a man crossing the street and immediately recognizes him as someone from his past. He is a man named Eric Targo, and Wexford has always believed him responsible for a murder that Wexford first helped investigate as a young policeman. It wasn't that there was evidence per se of Targo's involvement - but more instinct and the oddness of Targo's subsequent behavior that lead Wexford to conclude his guilt, and suspect him of being a sociopath serial killer. But what has been his motive?

Rendell weaves this narrative story with that of a coworkers personal interest and investigation of the possible forced marriage of a young Muslim girl. The two stories become intertwined and coalesce by the end.

Personally, I thought the second story line involving the young girl detracted from the book. It seemed too much like social commentary on Rendell's part, and I thought the parts of the book that dealt with her story seemed contrived and frankly, a slow-go for me.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Sharon Isch TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Longtime fans of this series seem to be particularly keen on this novel because it reveals so much of the inspector's personal past. I can't really speak to that as this is my first Inspector Wexford novel and, according to the review in today's Washington Post, Ruth Rendell has said this 22nd in the series will be her last, as she has "other interests now."

"Monster in the Box" is the story of two detectives' extreme obsessions: 1) Wexford's with a character out of his past who, without a grain of proof, he deeply believes has committed at least two murders and may also be a serial killer; and (2) his "politically correct" colleague Hannah's to save a 16-year old Pakistani girl, who's dropped out of school, from the threat of either a forced arranged marriage or an honor killing. Eventually the two storylines will merge and all will be revealed. A pretty good read with an exceedingly creepy prime suspect, but after all the buildup, I found the wrapup somewhat weak and flat.

*Update October 2011:
OOPS! Seems the author changed her mind and is revisiting yet another of Wexford's old cases:
Following is from the New York Times mystery review column of 10/16/11:
"The most disturbing moment in Ruth Rendell's latest Inspector Wexford mystery, THE VAULT (Scribner, $26), is when her retired London detective realizes that he isn't 'entitled' to enter the new police headquarters in Cricklewood. That sense of disorientation hovers over Wexford as he goes about his vaguely defined business as an "expert adviser" on a bizarre case in St. John's Wood.
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