Ruth Rendall


".. there is always that hint of menace that makes you turn the pages"


Eugene Wren is a man who is prone to addictions, whether it be alcohol or cigarettes. Now he has a new addiction which makes the other two seem like passing phases. His new addiction is for sugar free sweets – Chocorange. Never being able to get enough of the things he continues to buy them and with great fear of being found out about his new failing, he hides them about the house so that his fiancée won't know about the thing that possesses his mind at all hours of the day or night.

One day Eugene finds money in the street and pinning a note to a lamppost, asks for the owner to retrieve his find. Soon after, two people enter his life. One is the rightful owner of the money, the other a man trying his luck. Both men will force their way in to Eugene's life as his addiction for the sweets begins to cripple him and possibly destroy the life he wants to lead.

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Portobello is the latest psychological novel from the Rendell cannon. As with most of Rendell's books, she takes the most miniscule difficulty - like the penchant for sweets - and turns it into a reason for drama. Her skill is in pushing her protagonists to the edge over the simplest of things in daily life. Sometimes these characters can seem exaggerated, but that is what Rendell is marvellous at creating. She takes the ordinary and pulls it out of all proportion. But this only makes the reader continue to read. In most of her novels, Rendell's characters are not particularly likeable beings, but in her writing there is always that hint of menace that makes you turn the pages. Rendell has stated that she loves the area known as Portobello and that affection comes across quite clearly in this book. Through her detailed descriptions the Portobello market comes alive and she is always willing to show the seedier parts of London as well as the grand, orchestrating the social classes clashing against one another. There is murder in Portobello, but Rendell must be getting sentimental as there is a happy ending to this book. It is not her finest work but there are certainly enough of the classic Rendell ingredients here to satisfy any fan like me.

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