Ruth Rendell

Dark Corners

"Dark Corners’ is a fitting full-stop to a stunning and forward-thinking body of work."


Carl Martin has inherited his father's house in Falcon Mews; a sought-after area in London. Carl's father collected pills – homeopathic, herbal remedies – which Carl knew he should have put in a bag and thrown away once the house was his. But he didn't. Carl is a first-time novelist, but not a rich one and he needs money. Carl rents out the top floor of the townhouse to a churchgoer with yellow teeth called Dermot. Despite his new income, Carl sells his friend, Stacey some slimming pills rather than give them her. A few days later she is dead. The pills were not illegal, but the wrong dose brings on a sudden and violent death.

Carl's guilt is all consuming, but he can't tell anyone. But someone else does know that Carl sold those pills… his tenant, Dermot who tells Carl what he knows and that forthwith, to keep his silence, he will be living in Carl's house, rent free. So begins a tale of guilt and blackmail and murder. But a murder doesn't always mean that is the end of the matter…

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Anybody who is a regular on knows my thoughts on Ruth Rendell. She changed the landscape of crime fiction. Her novels pushed the boundaries and like a surrogate mother, she nursed an ailing crime fiction into adulthood. Rendell proved that crime fiction could stand alongside, if not even head and shoulders above, literary fiction. With the recent announcement of the Man Booker Prize to Marlon James which is in effect a crime novel, (something many said would NEVER happen), Rendell's legacy is great and what she did for this genre will be remembered for decades. In crime genre folklore Rendell has become immortal. Having read everything by Rendell, it was with great sadness that I started 'Dark Corners', especially with the words, 'Her Final Novel' splashed across the front. Her passing is a great sadness, so enjoy this last book from her warped and wonderfully wicked imagination - but is it a fitting finale? 'Dark Corners' certainly proves that Rendell did not rest on her laurels. The dark corners she alludes to are the ones in Carl's mind as well as those dark spots of shadow under the bridges along the London canal she so lovingly and respectfully describes. As with many novels, Rendell collects a cast of characters that are not particularly pleasant, but she makes you feel for them and wonder what sort of life are they going to have when their greatest attribute is to either deceive or lie? I felt it was quite telling how Rendell paints a picture of Tom Milson and his daughter, Lizzie who he doesn't particularly like because even as an adult she can't stop telling lies – or 'porky pies' as he calls them. And when something horrific does happen to Lizzie of course, nobody believes her. In attendance is Rendell's wonderful dry and acerbic sense of humour at the ridiculous, the finely tuned observations of the macabre. Rendell shows that committing murder may not necessarily mean the end of the matter. In fact, it could open up a whole new load of chaos. 'Dark Corners' is lighter than 'A Fatal Inversion' or 'The Crocodile Bird', but it certainly proves that Rendell loved nothing more than spinning a good story and 'Dark Corners' still bears all the Rendell hallmarks. What also struck me was the last sentence of this novel. Looking at them now they sound quite prophetic. Rendell said on many occasions there was no point living if she couldn't write. She got her wish, and 'Dark Corners' is a fitting full-stop to a stunning and forward-thinking body of work.

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