Sunday, December 11, 2005

Ruth Rendell Tackles Celebrity in Latest Mystery

Ruth Rendell, doyen of British mystery writers, says modestly that she began her literary career with some "very bad" unpublished novels. Then, "for fun," she wrote a mystery centered on Detective Chief Inspector Reg Wexford, a liberal, literary small-town detective. She never looked back.

At 75, Rendell is fearsomely prolific, the author of more than 60 books over a 40-year career. They appear at the rate of at least one a year — 20 mysteries featuring Chief Inspector Wexford; chilling, elegantly plotted psychological mysteries; and the thick multigenerational thrillers published under the pen name Barbara Vine.

Rendell's mysteries are less whodunits than whydunits, and her latest, 13 Steps Down, is no exception. The mystery follows an unremarkable exercise-machine repairman named Mix Cellini as he becomes — partly through temperament and partly by accident — a murderer. Mix is a bundle of very recognizable modern obsessions — fascinated by a real-life serial killer who lived in his London neighborhood half a century ago, infatuated with a supermodel who lives nearby and hooked on the idea of becoming a celebrity.

Read the rest of this article by AP reporter Jill Lawless here.

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