Ruth Rendall

No Man’s Nightingale

"Anyone who I am acquainted with knows how much I admire this writer’s work."


Wexford hears all about the local murder from his over-bearing and talkative cleaner, Maxine who discovered the body. Sarah Hussain is found dead on her living room floor, she has been strangled. Hussain was the Reverend of St. Peter's church, born of mixed parentage who was intelligent and knew in what direction she was going when it came to her faith. An attitude that can easily cause friction with other people. But is it enough to cause murder?

Burden calls on his now retired boss and friend to tap into his thoughts of this crime. Thankfully, retirement hasn't blunted Wexford's senses and very soon he is sensing that people are not being as honest as they should be. Wexford is steered down many alleyways over the parentage of Clarissa, Sarah Hussain's daughter who was born after her husband was killed in a tragic accident. With Burden feeling pressurised to make an arrest, he does so but with consequences that nobody could have foretold. It is this latest crime that eventually, after many months of slow and patient gathering of facts, that leads Wexford to the perpetrators of this heinous crime.

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Anyone who I am acquainted with knows how much I admire this writer's work. However, I am not so blinkered to realise that some of Baroness Rendell's later output has been mixed. On the whole I have enjoyed them but some have been below par, but even Christie was pushed to write a blinder every time when, like Rendell, the number of her novels had reached the seventies. I believe the last Rendell book count was seventy-eight, which I believe surpasses even Christie. 'No Man's Nightingale' starts off well but even from the beginning you feel that there are two time periods over-lapping one another. As Wexford is now retired we know it is based in the present day, but the Kingsmarkham that Rendell portrays certainly has the feel of 50's upper-middle class and not without a whiff of Midsomer Murders intruding, too. It is a bizarre hybrid that Rendell has delivered here and one that I cannot remember her using in any of her previous novels. Rendell makes much of Wexford's lack of officialdom and appears to revel in the fact that her character, whom she created fifty years ago, has now been stripped of his authority. I can bend the idea that Wexford has so much access to the case despite being retired, but Rendell needlessly reminds her reader of Wexford's position as a member of the public and not as a policeman. It did start to jar after a while. However, saying that, Rendell displays perfectly her flare of observation and lends a dry sense of humour to some of the mundane moments of daily life. 'No Man's Nightingale' is a mixed affair, although at 280 pages, the story did feel stretched. It may have been a tighter story if reduced in size. It has been some weeks since I read this book and I cannot say that it has stuck in my memory like others of hers I read decades ago. 'No Man's Nightingale' is a very competent mystery but sadly lacks that magical Rendell touch.

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