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5.0 out of 5 starsRare reading experience!
Reviewed in the United States on February 28, 2016
An unusual mystery, characters, and point of view. Two time frames: Children playing is secret tunnels during World War II and those same people in old age. A woman and man went missing during the war time but the disappearances were unremarked due to the confusing times. Later a clue leads police to consider it a possible murder and to re-interview the children (as elderly adults) as to what the saw and knew. The elderly people become reacquainted through the questioning by police and find that each has a bit of knowledge about the crime. But it is not the solving of the mystery that was so engaging about this book, It was the elderly characters, their observations about themselves, their lives, and the other characters. I've never read so carefully realized and honest depictions of life through the eyes of experience. The writer switches from the viewpoint of one character to another and the reader is discovering the people's characters and the clues as the book progresses. Delightful reading experience! Absolutely not a maudlin view of old age--these are multidimensional characters--warts and all!
3.0 out of 5 starsTherefore I didn't enjoy this book as much as I otherwise would have ...
Reviewed in the United States on January 8, 2017
Years later a group of friends are brought together through the discovery of a pair of hands in the tunnels they used to play in.
This is a very well written book. I was just expecting a different type of story. I thought this was going to be a mystery, but it was much more a dissection of human nature. Therefore I didn't enjoy this book as much as I otherwise would have because of my false expectations going. As well, I thought the story was very slow to build. So the first half of the book I was indifferent, and it was only the last 50 pages or so that I found myself caring what was going to happen next.
What a stupendous story! From children secretly meeting in nearby "tunnels" to play games to a decades-old mystery, the story is rich in human nature, of selfishness that comes back to bite you, of growing old.
There's Michael whose father abandoned him when he was 9, putting him in a train to his cousin and putting him out of mind. Lewis Newman, now a doctor, has never forgotten his uncle who disappeared. Two of the children, Alan and Rosemary, are now married. All of the surviving children, now elderly, are called together for interviews when the biscuit tin is discovered.
Reviewed in the United States on September 6, 2015
First, I love anything by Ruth Rendell. Having said that, I am inevitably confused at several points in her narratives, mainly because she didn't scrimp on characters. However, I have also found that Kindle novels require a real dedication in order to appreciate them. The ease with which books are picked up and stopped again is actually a vexation to my spirit sometimes and the full power of a very good novel can be diluted. Not so with this offering from the one of the goddesses of the English mystery. Very strong characters, truly dark and sordid glimpses of human nature all conspired to rise above my frustration with reading novels on my Kindle. Non-fiction seems to be immune from this quirk of mine. It doesn't bother me a bit to digest most non-fiction works in "bytes." I think I may actually return to reading fiction in book form. The book just seems to invite one to read a compelling story in one sitting. Still, let me be clear. I love my Kindle and I LOVED this book.
5.0 out of 5 starsA Rendell novel is always a treat
Reviewed in the United States on October 12, 2014
Ruth Rendell is my favorite author and even when is not at her best, she is miles ahead of most writers in her ability to completely engross the reader in the lives of characters who are obsessed or deranged. This is especially the case with her books written under the pseudonym Barbara Vine. "The Girl Next Door" actually reminded me of a Vine novel. It does not feature her detective Wexford and involves a murder that happened decades in the past. A group of elderly characters who were childhood friends reconnect when a box containing the bones of two hands are unearthed in their former playground. As usual for Rendell, we know the identity of the killer right from the beginning. The circumstances around the events, however, are slowly revealed as the novel progresses.
"The Girl Next Door" however is not as much a murder mystery as it is a character study. Rendell's novels usually address some type of social issue (albeit indirectly) and this one focuses a lot on issues of aging. The circumstances of the character's lives and the mystery surrounding the bones discovery is all neatly tied together in the end in Rendell's mesmerizing style.
2.0 out of 5 starsIt didn't even feel like a Rendell novel
Reviewed in the United States on April 19, 2015
As a huge Ruth Rendell fan, I was so looking forward to this book. I hadn't read anything of hers for years, and the synopsis of this one sounded intruiging. How disappointing it was, to hardly be able to keep track of all the characters. It didn't even feel like a Rendell novel, really, until meeting Rosemary. She was the flawed character with interesting thoughts, but it just wasn't gripping enough. The whole thing with Alan and Daphne.. well, it just seemed sort of weak. I never got a feel for what Alan was like, I didn't understand his weird meeting with Michael, and I found none of the characters were well developed except for Rosemary. Too many people and too many tangents. The ending was also weak.
4.0 out of 5 starsAnother Rendell Superior Offering
Reviewed in the United States on July 9, 2015
Ruth Rendell is superb at character development. In this story, which brings childhood friends back together after many years, we see how the discovery of bodies buried years before affects these friends. The Girl Next Store is the child/woman who has played a part in several lives, and her effect is still felt after so many years. I didn't find this a mystery because we know the killer from the beginning, but an remarkable insight into people who find their lives not quite as they intended them, and try to change direction at a late age. I don't know if young people would enjoy this book as much as I have - they haven't been there, done that. But if you like a play-out of cause and effect, Rendell gives the plot and characters their opportunity to demonstrate their successes and failures. With a nice plot twist at the end.
3.0 out of 5 starsI really cannot get into this sort of story - ...
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 15, 2017
I really cannot get into this sort of story - too many characters saying too many things which you have to remember in case they are going to be relevant down the line. I would rather do a cryptic crossword.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 28, 2018
I always like work of Ruth Rendell. It may not be 'high literature', however, she captures life, characters, and human imperfections very well in her easy and readable books. Sad that she will not write more...
5.0 out of 5 starsI loved this - but not your usual Rendell mystery
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 11, 2014
Brief summary and review, no spoilers:
The story starts out during the war years in the 1940's in a small town in rural England. We are introduced to a man named "Woody" who is a very typical Ruth Rendell character - he is a complete sociopath.
From the very start we find out that Woody is married to a woman named Anita who is having an affair with another man. Woody catches them together and kills them and chops off their hands and puts them in a biscuit tin. He buries the tin in a series of tunnels that are the playground for a lot of the village kids.
After this quick start to the book, we then dive into the main body of the story which takes place during modern times. While doing construction, some workers find the biscuit tin with the hands and it is given to Scotland Yard. The inspector assigned to the case is not happy about getting this old, old case for a variety of reasons, not the least because the chances of finding the killer are remote and finding him alive have even worse odds. The detective isn't even sure a murder occurred.
When the kids from tunnels (now in their late 70's and 80's) read about the hands being found, they contact the detective to let them know what they know, which at the start isn't much. Over the course of the story we will gradually find out what has happened to Woody and just who's hands are in that tin along with Anita's.
What makes me say that this isn't your typical Rendell mystery is that the mystery isn't the draw or even the focus of the book. I am a HUGE Rendel/Vine fan and have read each and every one of her books. No one does quirky, sociopathic characters better than she does and she often has a great twist or two in the story as well.
In the book, the heart of the story, so to speak, is in getting to know these old people and getting inside their heads. Ms. Rendell is obviously writing what she knows here and I felt like I understood what it's like to be that age. These are not stereotypical literary old grandmothers or grandfathers - these are fully developed flesh and blood characters who still want to be happy and have good lives. They matter. They are the focus of the story and they can have the same feelings and emotions and hopes of those of youth.
I loved the way she showed them falling in love and behaving like those much younger - and their kids assuming they must have dementia - and the way she shows that at that age, death is ever on their minds and how they must deal with the sadness of losing so many contemporaries.
I thought this book had a bit of a slow-start (and there were lots of names to remember,) but then it absolutely took off for me and I just loved it.
3.0 out of 5 starsWhat a disappointment. It says Ruth Rendell on the cover
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 6, 2015
What a disappointment. It says Ruth Rendell on the cover, but did she really write this? Far too many characters, some of whom make little or no impact on the plot (such as it is). What's is about - aging and what to do in your retirement (especially if you've accumulated a small fortune along the way)? I must admit I found this book boring and not at all up to the Rendell standard of previous works. I was saddened to hear of her death, but considering this book, maybe there should be a mandatory retirement age for writers too?
4.0 out of 5 starsGreat idea, some pedestrian writing
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 18, 2017
This is a lovely idea, reminding me of Hitchcock. There is a murder, but we know who did it, and then we fast forward about 60 years when it comes to light. It is about the impact of this discovery on a group of children at the time of the murder, now getting older, rather than on the murder investigation. On the minus side, the writing is in a kind of slightly annoying 'What I did on my holiday' style.