Ruth Rendell

The Vault

"Rendell’s acerbic wit is still as sharp as ever..."


Reg Wexford is retired and no longer with the police force. And he is certainly feeling the pangs of retirement as he begins to get used to being plain 'Mr. Wexford'. A chance meeting in London introduces him to a case that has been puzzling police for some time. A number of bodies were discovered in a bricked-up cellar in St.John's Wood in various degrees of decay. Three of the bodies have been there for over a decade: a woman with red hair, an older man and a young man whose pockets were full of expensive jewellery. And a fourth – but this last has only been in 'The Vault' as Wexford calls it, for only two years. Was the macabre burial place discovered and then used to store this extra body?

As Wexford weaves his way through a political minefield due to his absence of authority, he finds that maybe this time the case could well place him in immediate danger. As well as having to deal with family traumas at the same time, Wexford slowly but surely arrives at the right solution.

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'The Vault' springs from the pages of a previous Rendell psychological novel, 'A Sight for Sore Eyes'. I loved this book and it has been a favourite of mine since first reading it in the late nineties. I re-read it again immediately before embarking on 'The Vault' and I believe that opinions will be divided as to whether or not reading the former improves the latter book. I would say read 'Sore Eyes' because although it doesn't necessarily involve the three bodies in the cellar, you will know how they arrived there in the first place. I also believe it enhances 'The Vault' and the search for the murderer of the fourth victim. Compared to previous Rendell books, 'The Vault' is slightly thinner than normal and although the solution is well thought through, I felt that Rendell herself was grasping for something to give Wexford himself. And to also reduce his stature in the police force I felt also reduced his stature as a man and main character. With normal irritating regularity, Sylvia finds herself stumbling into another dilemma and you do wonder that both the Wexford's haven't washed their hands of her already. I did have some difficulty trying to understand the reasoning behind this sub-plot. As always Rendell has a social issue to wave around which, although well done in such novels as 'Simisola', I feel that if anything this fist waving does tend to inhibit the drive of the main plot. Plus, you cannot tell me that a police officer born and raised in London has never heard of 'Cockney Rhyming Slang'. What is good to see is that Rendell's acerbic wit is still as sharp as ever, especially when dealing with the ghastly 'Mildredful'. Brilliant! This is certainly not her best, but even such a passable novel from the great lady herself is certainly better than most of the stuff being churned out these days!

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