Desire. Many mystery novels are so formulaic that they can try the patience of a reader who wants one’s intelligence respected. Ruth Rendell respects her readers, and in her novel, The Birthday Present, written under pen name Barbara Vine, she structures the story with great respect for thoughtful readers. We know what happened within a few opening pages; the pleasure comes from reading the next three hundred pages as she unfolds the context and meaning of it all. The narrator is the brother-in-law of an ambitious rising member of Parliament, Ivor Tesham. An accident makes a sex escapade turn disasterous for Ivor and others. With delicacy and without sordid details, Vine presents what happened to all the key players locking each puzzle piece together will skill. The power of desire permeates the novel and reveals itself from multiple perspectives. The Birthday Present is a fine gift for any mystery lover.
Rating: Four-star (Highly Recommended)
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