By: Ruth Rendell
Publication Date: 10/27/2015
My Rating: 3 Stars
A spectacularly compelling story of blackmail, murders both accidental and opportunistic, and of one life’s fateful unraveling from Ruth Rendell—“one of the most remarkable novelists of her generation” (People)—writing at her most acute and mesmerizing.
When his father dies, Carl Martin inherits a house in an increasingly rich and trendy London neighborhood. Carl needs cash, however, so he rents the upstairs room and kitchen to the first person he interviews, Dermot McKinnon. That was colossal mistake number one. Mistake number two was keeping his father’s bizarre collection of homeopathic “cures” that he found in the medicine cabinet, including a stash of controversial diet pills. Mistake number three was selling fifty of those diet pills to a friend, who is then found dead.
Dermot seizes a nefarious opportunity and begins to blackmail Carl, refusing to pay rent, and creepily invading Carl’s space. Ingeniously weaving together two storylines that finally merge in one shocking turn, Ruth Rendell describes one man’s spiral into darkness—and murder—as he falls victim to a diabolical foe he cannot escape.
This is masterful storytelling that gets under your skin, brilliant psychological suspense from Ruth Rendell. “No one surpasses Ruth Rendell when it comes to stories of obsession, instability, and malignant coincidence” (Stephen King).
A special thank you to Scribner and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Ruth Rendell’s final novel DARK CORNERS an intriguing cat-and mouse-game of blackmail and murder. From diet pills, homeopathic cures, a desperate man who needs cash, a tenant, a friend, an opportunist, and a jealous neighbor. A multi-layered evil web of deceit, multiple narratives- a psychological suspense of darkness and madness spirals out of control.
Wilfred Martin collected all sorts of alternative medicines and remedies over the years. He kept them in his bathroom in his home and when he died, the home and its content, was now the property of Carl, his son. Carl’s mother recommended throwing the stuff out as useless clutter. Hindsight, if Carl had only known the results, he would have emptied it as quickly as possible.
Taken over the former family home in Falcon Mews, with his mother in Camden, divorced. Carl forgot about the meds as spent most of his time with girlfriend Nichola, his novel, Death’s Door, which had just been published, and trying to rent the top floor of his house to a tenant for the extra income he needed. After all rents in London, were highly desirable and he was realistic to know he could not live on book sales alone.
His second mistake: He rented to Dermot McKinnon, the first interested person. He just did not want to fool with interviewing a ton of people, and surely this man could pay the rent, as he had a job at the Sutherland Pet Clinic and produced a great reference. The next mistake was saying he could leave the rent in cash or check in an envelope at Carl’s door.
Carl soon begins work on a second novel, and he feels good about it and excited about the upcoming rental income. As far as the meds, he had taken a couple of doses for his cold and cough, but did not pay much attention to any of the others in the cupboard.
He and Dermot do not cross paths often, as Dermot was off to work or church. Carl was on his way to have coffee with his friend, Stacey Warren. They had met at school and gone to university together. Her parents had been killed in a car crash and Stacey had inherited quite a bit of money—enough to buy herself a flat in Primrose Hill. With her beautiful face and slender figure, she was given a significant part in a TV sitcom called Station Road. She became famous; however, soon she began putting on weight. Everyone knows she was getting fat.
Carl was thinking of her problem, and suggested she go on a diet. She had broken up with her boyfriend and loves to eat. Possibly some diet pills? On his way home he started thinking more about Stacey’s problem and goes into his bookshop to see if he could find her a book on the subject. Then later he recalled the pills of his father’s. He got interrupted and forgot about them for the moment.
At first, being a landlord seemed trouble-free and Dermot paid his rent on time. That is for the first months. Now what? He did not like confrontations. However, he could not seem to write thinking about the money. He and his girlfriend were planning on a holiday. Then she planned to move in.
The day before Nichola moved in, Stacey came around and they had planned on going out to eat to a nearby restaurant. Before going out, she used the bathroom and he assumed she was applying more makeup. When he goes in to fetch some antihistamines, Stacey was intrigued and starts looking for diet pills. DNP. Dinitrophenol. He takes them from her and she mentions she guess she can order some online, or he could sell her fifty of these. Sell them? After all Stacey could afford it, so he agreed.
Dermot came in and possibly he overheard. He forgot about the transaction. Nicola moved in, and he was struggling with his novel, with sort of a writer’s block. One morning, he is reading the paper, and there is Stacey—found dead in her flat by a friend who had a key. Police said foul play was not suspected.
How could this be? His mother calls talking about Stacey and he was breaking out in a sweat. They had been best friends. Frantic, could it have been the pills? Immediately he does an internet search to research the diet pills.
Then there is Stacey’s neighbor, Lizzie who used the key to let herself in Stacey’s apartment. She is jealous, conniving, an opportunist. She and Stacey had known each other for years, (or so she says) when she finds her calls the police. She may just move in with the key she found. Like what would happen to the flat? Someone wants to get rid of Lizzie and cat.
Let the blackmail and the games begin! He is now threatening to go to the cops. No more rental income. Dermot plans to live rent free. He will take over his life. After all he overheard the transaction. Now without the rent, what was he going to live on? It would take him forever to finish the book and he would have to let this criminal bastard, blackmailer to live here?
Now Stacey’s apartment appears to be taken over by Aunt Yvonne’s son, Gervaise. First he has to go on an archaeological visit to Cambodia. Then his sister moves in. Lizzie in the meantime takes all Stacey’s clothes and luggage and leaves. There is Tom and Dot, thinking Lizzie is off somewhere on holiday. Never explain. Abduction? Another story here.
Dermot is dating Sybil and plans to get married. Dermot turns up dead. Murdered. Now he has his girlfriend Sybil to worry about. When will this nightmare end? She thinks she is taking over her fiance’s tenancy. And she does not want to pay rent? Further blackmail. One blackmail needs to another, getting rid of one, then another...
A domino effect. One person sees or overhears the other. The stories connect. A friend of Lizzie. Carl has had enough of blackmail. He has a tenant. They are paying rent. His girlfriend is gone. He has taking to drinking around the clock. Madness. Guilt. Everyone has a plan and using the other in their own psycho-sadistic way.
A dark, creepy, quirky wacko read of good versus evil, right and wrong –the lines are blurred and one wrong deed leads to more covers ups with mania and madness. Everyone has a motive. For fans of psychological suspense and cozy mysteries. (of course no investigation by any police)
Also listened to the audio narrated by Ric Jerrom, with a quirky London accent; fitting with the crazy cast of characters.
Buy the Book
About the Author
Ruth Rendell was an exceptional crime writer, and will be remembered as a legend in her own lifetime. Her groundbreaking debut novel,From Doon With Death, was first published in 1964 and introduced the reader to her enduring and popular detective, Inspector Reginald Wexford, who went on to feature in twenty-four of her subsequent novels.
With worldwide sales of approximately 20 million copies, Rendell was a regularSunday Times bestseller. Her sixty bestselling novels include police procedurals, some of which have been successfully adapted for TV, stand-alone psychological mysteries, and a third strand of crime novels under the pseudonym Barbara Vine. Very much abreast of her times, the Wexford books in particular often engaged with social or political issues close to her heart.
Rendell won numerous awards, including the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger for 1976’s best crime novel with A Demon in My View, a Gold Dagger award for Live Flesh in 1986, and the Sunday TimesLiterary Award in 1990. In 2013 she was awarded the Crime Writers’ Association Cartier Diamond Dagger for sustained excellence in crime writing. In 1996 she was awarded the CBE and in 1997 became a Life Peer.
Ruth Rendell died in May 2015. Dark Corners is her final novel