Dark-Adapted Eyes



With the death of Ruth Rendell, we have lost a giant of the literary crime world. Rendell got her first publishing deal with Hutchinson after after working as a journalist on a local paper, the Chigwell Times. She apparently left the job after writing up a local tennis club dinner  without attending the event; she’d missed the death of the after-dinner speaker during his speech. Her publishing deal was worth £75.

She created the beloved country copper Inspector Wexford, who appeared in 24 novels and was played on TV by the wonderful George Baker, with whom I became friends many years ago after he taught me to cook. Bit of a weird link there.

Rendell created a separate strand of crime fiction that delved much further into the psychological aspects of criminals and their victims, some of them with mental problems. I always loved ‘A Judgement In Stone’, a terribly sad story about a maid who kills to cover up her illiteracy. It has been filmed several times.

As Barbara Vine she wrote ‘A Dark Adapted Eye’ and 13 other novels that injected a classical level of intense psychological perception into complex plots. Rendell’s lack of sentimentality and her ability to dissect tragedies brought about by her character’s inherently flawed natures raised the crime novel to an art, and influenced many. She was never really interested in police procedure, but explored the aberrant side of human nature. The Vine pseudonym allowed her to explore darker themes.

Now would be a good time to go back and rediscover some of her best works.

5 comments on “Dark-Adapted Eyes”

  1. Helen Martin says:

    For those who really enjoy the very dark and probably true to life side of the criminal literature.

  2. Laura B. says:

    Very sad news – ‘A Dark Adapted Eye’ is one of those books I feel the need to re-read every few years.

  3. Vivienne says:

    Her Barbara Vine books just seem to stay in the memory. Not just the plots, although these are riveting and unguessable while being totally plausible, but the settings, I find, are so vivid. The house and the summer in A Fatal Inversion, just wonderfully atmospheric. Luckily I have not read them all, so pleasure still to come.

  4. Helen Martin says:

    Rather than posting on Facebook, which always seems so crowded, I thought I would leave my sympathy here in the loss of your Mother. The pain lessens some after time but it never completely goes away. My sympathy to you and your family.

  5. agatha hamilton says:

    Oh, Christopher, I’m so sorry about your mother, but what a nice tribute you paid to her. She must have been awfully proud of you.

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