Bookmarks Issue: 
Ruth Rendell

A Wexford Novel

A-End in TearsWhen two young teenage mothers are brutally murdered in Kingsmarkham with chunks of concrete, Chief Inspector Wexford, as ever, is on the case. However, there are troubles closer to home that truly worry his mind. His feminist daughter, Sylvia, has agreed to serve as a surrogate mother for her ex-husband and his new wife, a decision that exacerbates Wexford’s strong emotions about the decline of manners and mores in the modern world. Burdened with keeping the peace, the aging Wexford dutifully carries out his job with the long shadow of his autumn years close beside him.
Crown. 336 pages. $25. ISBN: 0307339769

Orlando Sentinel 4 of 5 Stars
"Before End In Tears reaches a dramatic and highly satisfying conclusion, Rendell displays her incomparable skills to full effect, providing suspense and surprise as she explores interracial dating, baby-smuggling, the seamy side of the Internet and the importance of having the right accent." Ann Hellmuth

NY Times Book Review 3.5 of 5 Stars
"This carefully plotted whodunit functions as both a subtle case study in the criminal aberrations of parental love and a sly object lesson in the evils of intolerance." Marilyn Stasio

Entertainment Weekly 3 of 5 Stars
"[The novel] homes in on the commodification of fertility: When a woman wants a baby, how far might she go to get one? And what evil schemes might others hatch to exploit that desire?" Jennifer Reese

Boston Globe 2.5 of 5 Stars
"[A] real page turner, filled with twists and turns designed to keep a reader guessing. The only problem is those aren’t the kinds of things we turn to Ruth Rendell for." Ed Siegel

Times [UK] 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Emotionally and psychologically speaking, the Wexford series works best when the crime to be solved finds an echo at some level in corrosive feeling surfacing beneath the otherwise placid home life of one or other detective." Hilary Spurling

Critical Summary

Ruth Rendell’s quality work is both a blessing and a curse. With over 20 Wexford novels—and an even greater number outside the series and under her pseudonym Barbara Vine—reviewers have had ample opportunity to relish her characterizations and get wise to her narrative proclivities. Here they identify a case of the strengths of Rendell’s writing (characterization and the use of metaphor) playing second fiddle to the contrivances of a thriller. Plot twists abound for those into neck-snapping plots, but most critics agree that Rendell is at her best when she foregoes narrative theatrics and focuses on the metaphoric parallels between plot and theme. End in Tears is not bad, but isn’t great either—and for a writer of Rendell’s status, just good doesn’t seem to be good enough.