Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Portobello by Ruth Rendell

Scribner, 322 pages, $16

What a fabulous writer! What a slow-moving book! I say that just so you will be prepared and not expect the usual suspects right from the start. From the candy-eating art dealer to the lower class, low-class thief to his uncle, the born-again ex-con, and all the characters in-between, Rendell paints their eccentricities with deft strokes.

As is the case with so many books these days, Rendell presents multiple storylines, and it is only at the end that coincidence or propinquity brings the threads together. The diligent reader is rewarded for the first 300 pages by the last ten.

Rendell is also a magician who draws her readers’ attention to a diversion to obfuscate the real climactic crimes. With each character in turn, it is easy to ask, Is this the one? The one who will crack? The one who will venture to do the unthinkable, the abhorrent act, the sideways slide into the abyss? Because you know it is coming.

I'm glad I read this book, but I felt like the sucker who was born in that minute. I kept expecting fireworks. Perhaps, had they gone off, the story would have become clich├ęd, but I felt vaguely let down.

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