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Tigerlily's Orchids: A Novel Hardcover – June 14, 2011
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“Rendell marshals her large cast of vividly drawn characters with apparent ease, skewering their self-deception and satirizing their pursuit of self-gratification with great skill…. The result is a thrilling exercise.”—The Evening Standard (UK)
"Out of this spider's web of interwoven lives emerges ... a beautifully disguised and manipulated surprise, set amid the jittery background of the restless city."--The Independent (UK)
“Spellbinding…. It's hard to think of another writer in the genre doing this sort of thing so well, and none does it better.”--Washington Post
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Brief summary and review, no spoilers:
At the beginning of this novel, a handsome young man named Stuart Font is planning to throw a party in his new flat. He is planning the guest list that includes all the residents in his apartment complex.
We also know from the start that Stuart is having an affair with a married woman named Claudia, and when Claudia's husband Freddie finds out about this affair he is definitely not happy. Many of the other characters in this novel are apartment tenants such as sad alcoholic Olwen, 3 young female college students, an ex- doctor newspaper columnist and his wife, a sleazy flat manager and his wife, a homeopathic healer, an ex-hippie who thinks the healer looks very familiar, and finally an elderly fussy retired policeman who is very concerned about keeping his flat warm.
There is also a very pretty young Asian girl across the street - Tigerlily from the title - and Stuart becomes obsessed with her.
As we become acquainted with all of these tenants in typical Rendell fashion, their lives will all intertwine in strange and sinister ways as the tension ratchets up. Full of the typical eccentric and oddball characters, I read this novel in one sitting. This is my favorite Rendell since Adam and Eve and Pinch Me
If you have never read Ruth Rendell before, this is a fine start although I would recommend my personal favorite, A Sight for Sore Eyes
I also highly recommend any of her Barbara Vine novels (with the exception of The Blood Doctor: A Novel which I thought was an unusual slow read.) You just can't go wrong with any of the others.
Recommended. She's just one of the best mystery writers out there.
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.