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Adam and Eve and Pinch Me Hardcover – February 12, 2002
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In Adam and Eve and Pinch Me, the mills of the gods appear to have ground Jock Lewis to dust--or have they? Jock's obsessive-compulsive girlfriend, Minty, thinks he was killed in a train crash and is tormented by his ghost. But the cheerfully amoral Jock--AKA Jerry Leach and Jeff Leigh, depending on which woman he's romancing--faked his death to move on to yet another unsuspecting lady. His one legal wife has swept their union hastily under the rug and married a conservative member of Parliament, who has his own urgent secrets. Jock's most recent fiancée, a successful banker, hasn't minded keeping him in the manner to which he's become accustomed--that is, until the day he doesn't come home. When his body is found in a cinema, the intersections of his past collapse in a way that destroys some lives and rebuilds others.
Adam and Eve and Pinch Me is no whodunit: the murderer is known from the outset. The suspense arises from the uncertainty of whether justice will be served. That deftly handled angle draws the reader into the book, while Ruth Rendell's famously acute insight into all forms of borderline madness makes it all so believably chilling. --Barrie Trinkle
From Publishers Weekly
HThis latest gem from the British master concerns the wreckage wrought on a variety of Londoners by a womanizing con man who speaks in rhymes. Here, as in A Sight for Sore Eyes (1999), Rendell's genius is to create characters so vivid they live beyond the frame of the novel. She pushes the ordinary to the point of the bizarre while remaining consistently believable. Araminta "Minty" Knox, the fragile center of the plot, is a 30-something woman, alone and obsessed with hygiene, who works in a dry-cleaning shop. All the world is a petri dish for Minty, who sees germs everywhere, which she attacks with Wright's Coal Tar Soap. She is equally tormented by the ghosts she imagines, her domineering "Auntie" and the man who took her virginity. Other characters hover on the borderline between transformation and disaster. Tory MP "Jims" Melcombe-Smith, in bed politically with the "family values" crowd, is simultaneously courting a gay lover. Working-class Zillah Leach, bored with her small children and smaller bank account, schemes to marry up, even at the risk of committing bigamy. This is not a whodunit in the sense of Rendell's Inspector Wexford novels, but a study of crime's origins and especially its consequences as they ripple out beyond the immediate victims. The plot is intricate but brisk, and Rendell nails her characters' psychology in all its perverse logic. She has a travel writer's sensitivity to setting, to the architecture, cemeteries, birds and vegetation of contemporary Britain. This is a literary page-turner, both elegant and accessible.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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This book, as was the last one I read, "The Birthday Present" a let down. After I finish the last of the Rendell's on my bookshelf, there will be no more. Ironically, it is the first she ever wrote.
This one kept me riveted. I really had trouble putting it down to get on with my daily tasks, until I finished it last night. Her portrayal of the compulsive-obsessive Minty, who slips over the edge into insanity, will stay with me for a long time. I also reveled in the other characters, even the ones who seemed like excess baggage when first they appeared in the narrative. OK, except for the brief appearances of some ill-fated juveniles, who as far as I'm concerned were never more than tiresome clutter.
Yes, it was riveting overall. And yet, I skimmed over some of the action in the second half of the book, mostly to do with the police investigation of the two murders. It could have done with tighter editing there.
I shall probably re-read some of the final chapters to be sure I've savored the way the plot wrapped up as to the lovely, self-absorbed, and stupid Zillah, and her gay conservative MP "husband," among others. I rather cared what might have happened to them, and Minty, and a few other characters, after the final scene.
In this novel, Rendell creates some extremely dysfunctional characters. Yet, no matter how strange or unlikable the characters are at first glance, the author manages to make the reader both understand and sympathize with them. Most dysfunctional of all is Minty Knox, a pathetic and lonely young woman who has a horrible case of obsessive-compulsive disorder. She is compelled by her illness to wash herself, her clothing and her home many times daily; her fear of dirt is pathological. Worse yet, Minty eventually starts to hallucinate, seeing and hearing ghosts of people whom she has known in the past. There is also a strange couple, Michelle and Matthew Jarvey, who suffer from extreme eating disorders and an ambitious Member of Parliament named Jims Melcombe-Smith, whose is willing to go to desperate lengths to keep his homosexuality a secret.
The lives of these people and others intersect when two bizarre murders are committed in London in close succession. The police cannot decide who had the means or the motive to commit these strange crimes, but the reader is in on the secret all along. Therefore, "Adam and Eve" is not so much a whodunit as it is an intricate, suspenseful and fascinating psychological study of the different ways that people behave under extreme duress. It would be fair to state that Rendell's view of human nature is generally a negative one, since she so often depicts selfish, petty and disturbed people in her novels. However, Rendell tempers her pessimism with delicious humor and deep compassion. Occasionally, as in the case of Michelle and Matthew Jarvey, Rendell creates characters who treat one other with genuine consideration and devotion. The whole spectrum of human nature is on display in Rendell's novels.
I highly recommend "Adam and Eve and Pinch Me." It is a wonderful book that will mesmerize, horrify and entertain you all at once.