No Man’s Nightingale
by Ruth Rendell (2013) ***
Sarah Hussain, a female vicar of mixed race, modern ideas, and on top of all single mother to a teenage daughter (born years after Sarah’s husband died), is discovered murdered in the Kingsmarkham vicarage.
The body is found by Maxine, a cleaning woman who is also in the employ of former Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford and his wife. Wexford (known from many previous detective novels by Ruth Rendell) is not all happy about his retirement life; even if it gives him a chance to catch up with old classics like The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
When Wexford’s successor and former colleague Mike Burden gives him a chance to tag along in parts of the investigation of the Sarah Hussein case, he jumps at the chance – if nothing else, it’s an excuse to get out of the house while the ever-gossiping Maxine is there doing her cleaning. Wexford also gets more personally involved when the murder victim’s daughter, Clarissa, ends up renting a room in his Wexford’s daughter’s house, and making friends (or more than friends) with his own grandson.
To be quite frank, I felt throughout this book, that in spite of the “possibilities” of an intriguing mystery, the focus in this book tends to be more on Wexford’s struggle with retirement than on the case as such. I find it debatable (both witin the frames of the novel and from reader’s perspective) how well it works out to let Wexford continue be involved in a murder investigation without his former official police authority. However, there is an awareness of this question included in the story itself too. But in the end it still remains unclear to me how much of Wexford’s struggle with retirement is the author’s means of leading her readers astray, versus just reflecting the fact that she herself will be 84 years old next year. I guess a certain preoccupation with the hazards of getting old(er) – and at the same time keeping up with the modern world - might be allowed!
My spontaneous rating: 3 (out of 5). I found some aspects of the book interesting or challenging; but at the same time I found the story "sprawling" a bit too much. But then it should probably also be remembered that Ruth Rendell is an author who has already written a huge number of excellent books – a fact that also makes her fans expect a lot from her.