three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
20-Jan-Feb-2006
By: 
Ruth Rendell
user_rating: 
0

A-13StepsDown"Mix" Cellini uses his day job repairing exercise equipment to fund his two passions: supermodel Nerissa Nash and 20th-century serial killer Reggie Christie. Mix, who knows everything about the murderer and his victims, lives in the Notting Hill building where Christie once worked. His foil is Gwendolen Chawcer, his landlady. The reclusive Gwendolen, in turn, fixates on the physician who attended her dying mother 50 years ago, once flirted with her, and may very well still be pining away for her. Mix’s and Gwendolyn’s delusional obsessions may, of course, lead to their downfall.
Crown. 340 pages. $25. ISBN: 1400098424

Denver Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Rendell tells her story from a dispassionate distance, in an even tone that only deepens the foreboding. … The elements of surprise, combined with the richness of the story, make 13 Steps Down a riveting and seductive read." Robin Vidimos

Detroit Free Press 4 of 5 Stars
"Rendell will keep readers glued to 13 Steps Down. For those who don’t know her, it’s a perfect introduction. For those who do, it’s a welcome addition to her work." Ron Bernas

San Diego Union-Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"Rendell expertly weaves multiple narratives to spin a compelling tale of psychological suspense. … The galloping pace of the novel is set by the accelerating disintegration of Mix’s inner and outer worlds." Martha C. Lawrence

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 3.5 of 5 Stars
"13 Steps Down is filled with black comedy, ironies, deceptions and surprise, although sometimes what appears to be illusion (or delusion) turns out to be the real thing." Robert Croan

Rocky Mountain News 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The book is more lighthearted and funny than most of her novels, and much of its appeal lies in these coincidences and in the small, unexpected connections between people beyond the darker events of the story. … It’s certainly up to her usual high standard, and better than her last few, but doesn’t stand out as her very best." Jane Dickinson

Washington Post 3 of 5 Stars
"Real pain, resulting from thwarted love, is at the heart of all the characters’ fates. Many of them are enthralled with the unattainable, and Rendell’s astute depiction of this human tendency makes up for what seem to be lapses in technique. It is also the reason readers will feel rewarded when they finish this flawed yet fascinating novel." Rosemary Herbert

Critical Summary

Rendell has won almost every coveted mystery prize, and in Britain she is bested only by P. D. James, to whom she dedicates this book. But her following in America is smaller, and her publisher is betting on 13 Steps Down to change that (of course, it’s bet on this in the past as well). The novel’s fascinating characters, swift pace, unflappable tone, and inside look into a murderer’s remorseless mind will intrigue most readers. Chawcer evoked comparisons to Dickens’s Miss Havisham and even Dostoevsky’s old woman in Crime and Punishment. A whimpering ending may bother some.

Recently Reviewed

The Babes in the Wood: A Chief Inspector Wexford Mystery | Ruth Rendell (2003): 4 of 5 Stars Jan/Feb 2004. When a teenager and his younger sister disappear and their babysitter’s body is found in a quarry, Inspector Wexford beings to link evidence of foul play to a fundamentalist church group. This is the 19th entry in the Chief Inspector Wexford series, which began with From Doon with Death (1964).

Adam and Eve and Pinch Me | Ruth Rendell (2002): 3.5 of 5 Stars Summer 2002. Jock Lewis has made an art of promising marriage to a woman, pocketing a portion of her assets, and disappearing before his march down the aisle. Who among his victims is now responsible for his death?