Sunday 28 December 2014

Book review : An Unkindness of Ravens - Ruth Rendell

I knew that the collective noun for crows was a murder but I had no idea that a group of ravens was called an unkindness until I plucked this Ruth Rendell novel off my shelf. It's an old book (one that I swapped on the library exchange shelf while on holiday in Turkey this summer), published back in 1985 and the 13th in the Inspector Wexford series, which is now up to number 24. It's actually the first of the Inspector Wexford books that I have read, although I have seen some of the televised stories in the Ruth Rendell Mysteries series.

Not having read the previous novels, I did feel that Inspector Wexford was a bit of a flimsy character and would have liked more background information about his family and homelife to flesh him out a bit more in my mind. I'm sure this is all given in the earlier episodes though. It all seemed quite quaint and olde-worlde to me, with men as the breadwinners and women mostly sitting at home waiting for them to come home - I would guess it is supposed to be set in the 1960's or 70's.

In this novel, the inspector's wife Dora asks Wexford to call in on a neighbour whose husband has gone missing. It all appears to be a classic case of the man having a bit of a midlife crisis and running off to be with some new young woman somewhere - even the presumed wronged wife thinks so which is why she hasn't officially alerted the police. When he turns up dead, Wexford has to have a rethink though and he uncovers some surprising elements, such as the deceased's secret double life and a radical feminist group (wo have adopted the raven of the title as their symbol) who will go to any lengths to stand up for women's rights.

It's an easy read and I spent a few pleasant evenings reading it but there was nothing that really made it stand out as particularly ground-breaking or memorable. This may not have been the case back in the eighties though so I'd be interested to read some more of her more recent work to see if it packs more of a punch.

star rating : 3.5/5

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