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No Man's Nightingale: An Inspector Wexford Novel Hardcover – November 5, 2013
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From Publishers Weekly
In Rendell's absorbing 24th Inspector Wexford novel (after 2011's The Vault), the Kingsmarkham, England, sleuth tries to find out who strangled the Rev. Sarah Hussain in the vicarage of St. Peter's Church, and why. The fact that Hussain was biracial and a single mother had galvanized bigots near and far, who resented her very existence as well as her modernizing the liturgy. When Wexford's grandson, Robin, begins dating Sarah's daughter, Clarissa, Robin gets entangled in identifying Clarissa's sperm-donor father—further upping the ante for Wexford. Is a white power group responsible for killing Sarah, or had a personal relationship curdled into fury? Suspects abound: the shiftless depressive Jeremy Legg; the Anglican traditionalist Dennis Cuthbert; and Gerald Watson, a stuffy old flame of the murdered woman. Wexford's strengths as a man and as a detective are his calmness and resilience. A serene atheist, he looks to the conscience of humanity and Britain's flawed but well-intended laws to glean whatever justice can exist today. Agent: Peter Matson, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Nov.)
Firmly established in his retirement, former Chief Inspector Wexford is so thoroughly enjoying reading The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire that passages from it stud this narrative. Still, he leaps at the invitation, from his successor and former partner, Michael Burden, to visit the vicarage where the Reverend Sarah Hussein was strangled to death. Treading carefully in joining the murder investigation, the intuitive Wexford is most interested in the past of the late vicar, whose daughter, Clarissa, was born years after her mother was widowed. That Clarissa was to be told the circumstances of her birth when she turned 18, just a few months hence, adds to the intrigue. Wexford’s talkative cleaning woman, Maxine Sams, and her family also figure in the case, which is pursued rather languidly to its conclusion. In her twenty-fourth Wexford mystery, Rendell continues to raise social issues—sexism, racism, the modernization of the Church of England—but the series, like its protagonist, may be slowing down a bit with age. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Although this isn’t among the best in the long-running and much-adored Inspector Wexford series, it remains must reading for Rendell’s many well-earned fans. --Michele Leber
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I read it in just two days but could not remember who the characters were. I kept going back to check names and even then I was confused.
The description of London neighborhoods was interesting, but I can read a travel book for that.
Many twists in the plot did not make sense as unresolved hints continued to mount.
I still don't understand the red and blue striped tie mentioned in four different places. That never went anywhere and seemed like a mistake. Editing needed!
By the last twenty pages I simply didn't care. The book gave me a headache.
Even the closing sentence was irrelevant. Skip it.
Wexford does everything possible to alienate his friend Burden. He ridicules Burden for wasting time on staff meetings. He disapproves of the man Burden has arrested for the murder. And he pursues his own line of investigation, interviewing all sorts of peripheral people unofficially. I kept wondering why Burden put up with him. But of course Burden needs him, as does the story.
All through this book Wexford is reading Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, as befits a man with too much time on his hands. We are privy to his reflections as he philosophized over the death of Attila or an emperor's vicious pet bears. Wexford feels he's "become insignificant in the great scheme of law and order," yet he's the one who solves the case of the murdered vicar.
There are some compelling interpersonal dramas in the story, which Ruth Rendell handles with her usual flair.
The book is full of realistic characters. But Wexford's character is most realistic of all. At age 83, Rendell is in a good position to write convincingly about getting older while the world keeps getting younger, reading Gibbon while everyone else is on the Internet. I think this is what I liked most about No Man’s Nightingale.
I really need clarification how an ex-detective in the British Police System, can become part of a murder investigation without any credentials. Would it not ring bells for a lawsuit? Yet, we find ex DCI Wexford at the center of a murder investigation. He has been called by the current DCI Michael Burden to visit the scene of the death of a clergy, Rev. Sarah Hussein. Burden, in this novel, does not seem competent. He rushes to judgement, arrests people for murder without much evidence, makes racist judgements, and is quite worried about how he will be seen by the paparazzi. If it were not for Wexford, would any murderers be found? Throughout the investigation it is Wexford who is the clever, skilled investigator. The one with intuition, the one who most people respect and trust. Should he not come out of retirement, or at least become a consultant with credentials?
The most interesting character in this novel is Maxine. She cleans house for several families, three to be exact, all important people in the community. She babysits and is quite a busy woman earning a living. Maxine is quite competent, however, this woman talks non-stop. She is, of course, the Wexford's housecleaner. Wexford is at home most of the time, reading his book, and she talks to and at him all the time. Instead of asking her to go clean elsewhere or to shut up, Wexford listens or half listens and nods off and on. However, the woman let's slip important information that must be brought to Burden's attention . Of course, when she finds out, what Wexford has done, there is H*** to pay.
There are many characters in this novel, too many to make much sense. I think the author is trying to throw us off course at times. She has indeed brought us into the new age. The use of iPods, iPhones, the issues of sexism, racism, women in the Church, modern clothing, rebellion of young people, new age foods and the introduction of new ways of solving murder mysteries. Thus is all jam packed into a novel that has lost its luster. It started out well, but by page 50, it became a slog at times to get through. The final chapter was a sudden finish to the mystery, and it did not feel well done. Should we give a retirement party for DCI Reg Wexford?
Recommend With Qualms. prisrob 02-16-15