Ruth Rendell: Mysteries Collection
by Katherine Montalto
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Ruth Rendell is an iconic British mystery writer famous for her short stories and novels, particularly her detective fiction starring her most beloved character Chief Inspector Wexford. Ruth Rendell is often cited for creating the “whydunit” mystery genre with stories that focus more on why some people commit crimes, rather than just following the clues to discover who committed the crime and how they did it. Rendell’s work is famous for being shaped by elegant prose and sharply peering into the minds of its characters. Rendell characters are commonly disadvantaged by social isolation and mental illness, tortured by their secrets.
Ruth Rendell’s work was so adored that it was adapted into a series which aired on ITV between 1994 and 2000. The series also appeared on American PBS stations. Acorn Media released an 11 volume DVD set of The Ruth Rendell Mysteries Collection March 16th 2010. Included in the collection are 17 feature length mysteries based on Ruth Rendell’s bestselling fiction. The series stars actors like Colin Firth and Kelly Reilly at the start of their careers. The Last two discs of the box set star Rendell’s most famous character Chief Inspector Wexford, while the rest of the disks show a broad cross section of the series.
I found the episodes involving Chief Inspector Wexford to be the entertaining. These stories were the most dynamic and had the most in depth plot and character development. Chief Inspector Wexford is smart and witty with a bit of a sense of humor. Many of the other episodes in the series moved a bit slow with little character development. I found it hard to get invested in the stories without much connection to the characters. A Case of Coincidence and A Dark Blue Perfume were the two non Wexford episodes I enjoyed most while I found the Master of the Moor episode to be quite slow moving and dry.
Simisola on disk one of set four is my favorite episode in the entire series. Chief Inspector Wexford works hard to help his Nigerian-born physician find his missing 22 year old daughter. During the investigation Wexford and DI Burden run across the body of Annette Bystock strangled in her apartment. She was an advisor at the job center and coincidentally was the last person to have seen the physician’s daughter. Another woman connected to the job center is badly beaten in the apartment building where she lives. Wexford and his team began to unravel secrets hidden behind racial tensions.
Master of the Moor, the first episode in the series is the slowest of all the episodes. It’s the story of Stephen Whalby who has always taken refuge in the moor near his village. He is a loner who has a strained marriage. The bodies of women begin turning up in the moor and Stephen is usually the one to find them. DI Manciple, a rude outsider, targets Stephen as the prime suspect. Believe me my description sounds more exciting than it actually is. The story drags and the characters are hollow. I was delighted when the rest of the series turned out to be far more interesting than its first story.
If you’re searching for fast action and suspense this is probably a series you should skip. While this series has great mysteries and well thought out stories, it tends to drag a bit and the characters and dialog can be quite dry. If you are a fan of Ruth Rendell’s short stories and novels than you will enjoy this box set and I highly recommend it.
Katherine Montalto is a freelance writer but works various odd jobs to pay the bills such as a chef, candy maker and dog walker. Cake is one of her favorite indulgences. She will travel anywhere at any distance to get it, once even crashing a dinosaur’s birthday party. More of Katherine’s work can be found at www.killmonkies.com.
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