An Unkindness of Ravens : An Inspector Wexford Mystery by Ruth Rendell
; Dimensions (in inches): 0.75 x 7.25 x 4.25
Publisher: Arrow Books Ltd; (June 2000)
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Review, December 6, 2001
from Chifley, A.C.T. Australia
An Unkindness of Ravens (1985) is the first Rendell novel I have read for four years, and it shows her giftsÔø‡characterisation and plottingÔø‡at their best, as she combines a scathing look at political extremism, the psychology of adolescent girls, and a gripping police procedural, with themes of feminism, extremism, teenagers vs. parents, women vs. men, poor vs. rich, and paedophilia. At the heart of the story is Rodney Williams, a missing bigamist, Ôø‡two different menÔø‡ One middle-aged, set in his ways, bored maybe, taking his family for granted, the other young still, even swinging Ôø‡ making the grade with a young wifeÔø‡, and suspected of having paedophiliac tendencies. It must be noted that the fine revelation of his true character is a genuine surprise. WilliamsÔø‡ murderÔø‡stabbed through the heart, most probably by one of his two wivesÔø‡seems to coincide with a series of stabbing attacks carried out on men approaching, or approached by, young womenÔø‡Ôø‡an extraordinary picture BuddÔø‡s story had created and one which appealed to his imagination. The dark wet night, the knife flashing purposefully, even frenziedly, the girl running into the rain with a sack slung over her shoulder. It was like an illustration in a fairy book of Andrew Lang, elusive, sinister, and other-worldlyÔø‡. It transpires that these women are all members of the feminist organisation A.R.R.I.A., whose emblem is a Ôø‡raven woman [with] a face like Britannica or maybe Boadicea, one of those noble, handsome, courageous, fanatical faces, that made you feel like locking up the knives and reaching for the ValiumÔø‡. It is the raven emblemÔø‡and its followersÔø‡that gives the book its title, for ravens are Ôø‡not soft and submissive. The collective noun for them is an Ôø‡unkindnessÔø‡. An Unkindness of Ravens. Appropriate, wouldnÔø‡t you say? In their attitude to the opposite sex anyway. They stab at us with knives rather than beaks.Ôø‡ Despite her liberal politics, Rendell is clearly against extremism, although she makes the point that Ôø‡revolutionaries are always extreme. Look at the Terror of 1793, look at Stalinism. If they're not, if they compromise with liberalism, all their principles fizzle out and you're back with the status quoÔø‡ ThatÔø‡s what's happened to the broader womenÔø‡s liberation movement.Ôø‡ Chief Inspector Wexford, as always, is actively detecting, showing his human side as well as his intelligence, as he tracks down clues and suspects, continually making comparisons to literature and to history. Although the surprising ending, well-clued, shows RendellÔø‡s interest in psychology, with terms such as solipsism, folie ˆÝ deux, and Freudian seduction theory being tossed around with gay abandon, there is not too much psychology, even though Wexford feels Ôø‡he sounded like a psychotherapist, though any interrogating policeman was one of thoseÔø‡, and BurdenÔø‡s familial problems do not intrude. Quite simply, a modern classic of detective fiction, tense and gripping, a book genuinely Ôø‡unable to be put downÔø‡.