- Audible Audio Edition
- Listening Length: 7 hours and 50 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
- Audible.com Release Date: June 14, 2011
- Whispersync for Voice: Ready
- Language: English
- ASIN: B0055QAF1I
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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Tigerlily's Orchids: A Novel Audiobook – Unabridged
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I've given this four stars instead of five because even though I thought the writing was excellent and the characters incredibly well drawn, I compare every Rendell to her masterpiece "A Judgement in Stone." This book is not as good, but that doesn't mean it's not worth a read - it definitely is. If you're looking for a murder mystery, you will be disappointed. Yes, there is a murder, and yes, the killer is not immediately revealed. But the murder is a subplot compared to the many stories of the characters who populate the world of the victim. When a book has me constantly second guessing the characters motives and actions, I know I've found a good one.
As is customary with Rendell, the characters--with the exception of Tigerlily, herself--are well-drawn, with believable motivations and consequences for their actions that aren't too farfetched. There is suspense aplenty, but it is leisurely presented, which I think could be a problem for readers accustomed to certain bestselling authors who write two and three page chapters, each one ending with a cliffhanger. This is not Ruth Rendell's style.
Since "Tigerlily's Orchids" is, ostensibly, a crime novel, there are an array of dirty deeds happening, but when the requisite murder finally occurs, we've already been drawn into the lives of other, more empathetic characters, so that the murder seems almost beside the point. Despite there being a host of likely suspects, the whole murder business presented here somehow doesn't seem integral to the central story. True, it adds another layer to the tale, but things would be just as interesting without it.
While I tend to prefer Rendell's stand alone novels to her Inspector Wexler series, "Tigerlily's Orchids", while very good, isn't one of my favorites. However, it is much better than the irksome "Portobello", Rendell's last outing; and, the fact that she is still a prolific writer in her eighties who has had more hits than misses earns extra kudos for this entertaining, if unmemorable, entry into her oeuvre.
Rendell links these denizens and peripheral friends with the way they live now, not how they will die. The most narcissistic character is the one that is murdered, however. We are initially introduced to Stuart Font, a handsome, young heir who purchased one of the flats with the money left to him from an aunt. He is not very smart, rather a slow learner who doesn't know money runs out and cannot seem to refrain from seeing a married woman, Claudia, even after a broken arm courtesy of her husband. Claudia is obsessed with Stuart (the thrill of the chase), Stuart becomes obsessed with a beautiful Asian girl who is thus named Tigerlily.
I found all of her characters interesting, particularly Olwen, the middle-aged drunk, whose goal is to drink herself to death. Olwen's pursuit of gin and other potent alcohol is a staggering drama; the many ways she obtains her bottles are quite astonishing and sad.
Many of the tenants pursue each other allowing Rendell to delve into their obsessions. Up front and center is the caretaker who loves watching little girls; he never touches them but has a penchant for pedophilia leading to his destruction. Money is always an issue especially for a tenant who obsessed after Stuart and found herself later reduced to living with a filthy abuser.
Rendell moved me from character to incidents without pause. She is a master at creating quirky people who reveal absurd habits or possibly sinister ones. The plot and murder are manipulated, but it makes sense when all is revealed.