It’s a Mystery: Wolf to the Slaughter, by Ruth Rendell

4.0 out of 5 stars Mr. Smith

Today Ruth Rendell is well known as a writer of thrillers with a fair amount of psychological tension in them. Wolf to the Slaughter is one of her much earlier Inspector Wexford novels, and, while she’s a competent writer and Wolf is worth reading, it lacks the edge that characterizes most of her later works. Wolf is police procedural focusing on a suspected murder, but with no body, Wexford and Burden are forced to start with no hard evidence, relying on their intuitions. A wealthy young woman fails to return home one night, and although her brother isn’t worried, the police are. What follows is a manhunt for a fellow using the name Smith, who rented a “by the evening” room from a local woman who is, in effect, running a flophouse. It’s interesting to watch the inspectors ferret out information, gleaning tiny nuggets of clues from various sources and trying to fit them into a coherent picture. Characters are one of Rendell’s strengths, and this book is populated with quirky and lively ones. Much zigging and zagging finally leads to a truly surprising ending. Exciting it’s not, but it is fascinating.

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