Ruth Rendell

Tigerlily’s Orchids

"Rendell’s novels always transcend the mere ‘crime’ novel."


The newest tenant of Lichfield House, Stuart Font has decided to throw a house-warming party and invited all the people in the building and some across the road. He has also grudgingly invited his girlfriend, Claudia, but not her cuckolded husband. The night will be one that all the local residents will remember for a very long time – and for all the wrong reasons.

After the disastrous party, the self-obsessed Stuart picks up his shattered ego and begins a fantasy with the young Asian woman across the road who speaks little to no English and is chaperoned by someone who Stuart believes is her 'wicked Uncle'. As his vanity begins to make Stuart believe that he can begin life with this girl he knows next to nothing about, events take a serious and deadly twist. It is only then that the true nature of 'Tigerlily' and her co-habitants are realised.

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With every new Ruth Rendell novel you don't really know what you are going to get - and that can only be a good thing. After over forty years of writing novels, this prolific writer can come up with another triumphant story that grips until the very end. I am not saying that all her efforts have been worthy - The Rottweiler still makes me nauseous. But with Tigerlily's Orchids, Rendell is back on solid ground that she knows is her 'metier'; a group of people living literally on top of one another, trying to lead their own existence but that existence always encroaching on other people's lives. She did this perfectly in A Demon in My View. It is this 'overlapping' that Rendell does so well and with such studied craft. Rendell's novels always transcend the mere 'crime' novel. She gives people lives, fleshes them out and makes some caricatures and others people you can identify with. Olwen who wants to simply drink herself to death is a marvellous creation – her sad decline is never pitiful and yet is almost totally planned by Olwen herself. You can feel that Rendell herself enjoys dishing out a come-uppance or two on her own creations – and some of them definitely deserve it. I wouldn't say this is totally vintage Rendell – I still believe this author reached her zenith in the eighties/early nineties with The Killing Doll and Asta's Book, but this is definitely a strong novel. I heard the entire novel on CD which was brought to life by the marvellous actor, Nickolas Grace, who I believe supplied an extra depth to the story with his seductive narrative.

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