From crime fiction's reigning queen comes a diabolically intricate tale that weaves together the lives of very different people in the vibrant part of London known as Portobello. Fifty-year-old Eugene Wren inherited from his father an art gallery near an arcade that now sells cashmere, handmade soaps, and children's clothing. But he decided to ...
From crime fiction's reigning queen comes a diabolically intricate tale that weaves together the lives of very different people in the vibrant part of London known as Portobello. Fifty-year-old Eugene Wren inherited from his father an art gallery near an arcade that now sells cashmere, handmade soaps, and children's clothing. But he decided to move to a more upmarket site. Eugene was, perhaps, too secretive for his own good. He also had an addictive personality. But he had cut back radically on his alcohol consumption, and had given up cigarettes. Which was just as well, considering he was dating a doctor. For all his good intentions, though, there was something he didn't want her to know. One day, Eugene comes across an envelope containing a sum of money. Rather than report the matter to the police, he writes a note and sticks it up on a lamppost near his house. This note would link a number of very different people-each with their own obsessions, problems, dreams, and despairs. And through it all the hectic life of Portobello bustles on.
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I always look forward to Ruth Rendell's "non-Wexford" novels, having started many years ago by reading "A Demon in my View", and having since then worked my way through most, if not all, of them. The main protagonists always seem to have some sort of intriguing psychological problem and, in "Portobello", Ms Rendell comes up with not one, but several! I love her style and her masterly command of the English language and, even if the plot didn't quite live up to my expectations this time, I found, as always, the author's writing compulsive and satisfying.
In "Portobello" she creates a mesmerising tale of diverse characters - from Eugene, a well-to-do art gallery owner who surprises and dismays himself with an unexpected addiction and Ella his lady-love, a GP, both of them from the higher echelons of society, to the less privileged petty thief, Lance, and his girlfriend, Gemma. The author weaves their stories into a multi-layered tale, with input from other characters as well: Lance's uncle with a very shady history and his involvement with a strange religious sect; Joel, a young man with a tragic past; and a couple more petty criminal characters as well. The story is set against the backdrop of the Portobello Road, London - an area unknown to me - but which Ms Rendell brings vibrantly to life in the novel with her detailed descriptions.
I first of all awarded this book 3 stars but, on reflection, I realise that I enjoyed it to such an extent that I feel it deserves four. It was an easy and pleasant read and long may Ms Rendell continue to produce such novels!
Publishers Weekly, 2010-07-26 London's Portobello Road, a street fabled for its shops and outdoor market, provides the backdrop for Edgar-winner Rendell's superlative suspense novel, which features a cast of colorful characters from varied classes and walks of life. Secretive 50-year-old Eugene Wren, who's addicted to cheap candy lozenges, is toying with marrying his longtime girlfriend, physician Ella Cotswold. Rootless Lance Platt cases the neighborhood for costly homes he can break into, and clashes with his great-uncle, Gilbert Gibson, a former burglar who now preaches the gospel. One man's losing 115 pounds triggers a series of coincidences that brings this disparate lot closer together, toward haphazard violence and death. Rendell (The Water's Lovely) is particularly adept at portraying young people just a dole check away from homelessness as well as the carelessness and callousness of the book's upper-middle-class characters. Her style has become ever more spare while retaining its subtle psychology and vivid sense of place. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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