It’s a Mystery: End in Tears, by Ruth Rendell

End in Tears (Chief Inspector Wexford Mysteries (Paperback))Oh, baby!

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Inspector Reg Wexford is something of a dinosaur, albeit a respected one, in the Kingsbridge Constabulary. As usually happens as people age, he is more and more discomposed by current societal attitudes and mores, while his younger colleagues take them for granted. It’s a good thing that Reg has some skilled and trusted younger colleagues upon whom to rely, because, while he’s a fine detective, he hasn’t kept up with important technological advances. On the other hand, 30-ish DS Hannah Goldsmith maintains a rigid out-with-the-old attitude that sometimes interferes with her objectivity. In his latest case, the murder of two teenaged mothers, Reg must grapple not only with a frustrating, perplexing investigation, but also with a family crisis of his own that, in many ways, bears a striking resemblance to what he’s facing at work. The involvement of children only exacerbates Reg’s disheartenment. A complex and painstaking investigation over four months leads to a dramatic and surprising conclusion.

Ruth Rendell, for over forty years, has been one of the countesses of British crime fiction. While many of her works deal with psychological suspense, End in Tears is a straightforward mystery, built around the problems of illegal adoption, surrogate parenthood, and personal unhappiness. Rendell’s writing is clean, unencumbered by fancy words or elaborate sentence construction. Clues abound, dropped seamlessly into the narrative, in such a way that it’s easy to miss their significance until things come clear at the end. True, the Goldsmith persona can use some fine tuning, she provides the suspense that brings the book to its close while balancing Wexford’s deficiencies. All in all, End in Tears is a page turner full of interesting characters and timely issues.

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