Tuesday 28 February 2017

Review: Tigerlily's Orchids by Ruth Rendell

(Hutchinson £18.99)

Duncan, a retired breakdown rescue mechanic, spends most of his days watching the comings and goings of his neighbours in Lichfied House, the small block of flats across the road.

In Number 6 there's alcoholic Olwyn Curtin; lonely academic bachelor Maurius, in Number 3; New Age herbalist Rose Preston Jones in Number 2; students Noor, Mollie and Sophie in Number 5; and a vain and naïve young man in Number 1, Stuart Font.

Stuart is obsessed with Duncan's neighbour, an exotic and reclusive young Chinese woman he has nicknamed Tigerlily. Then there's the creepy caretaker Mr Scurlock and his brassy wife Rosalind. Stuart decides to give a flat-warming party, inviting all his neighbours, which sets in train a series of tragedies that eventually lead to a murder.

Now in her 81st year, Ruth Rendell, creator of the hugely popular Inspector Wexford series of police procedurals, is one of Britain's most prolific mystery writers. In addition to 22 Wexford tales, Rendell has written 25 stand-alone psychological thrillers and, under the pseudonym Barbara Vine, a further 13 novels. Tigerlily's Orchids is proof positive that age has not withered this keenly observant octogenarian's ability to spin an atmospheric and disturbing tale while savagely skewering British lower middle-class pretensions.

Irish Independent

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