The Fiction of Ruth Rendell: Ancient Tragedy and the Modern Family, Revised Edition

Barbara Fass Leavy. Poisoned Pen, $19.95 trade paper (324p) ISBN 978-1-59058-324-1
In this revised edition of her 2010 study of the mystery fiction of the British master Rendell, Leavy (To Blight with Plague) presents a convincing case that Rendell’s work is often knowingly inspired by the myths of ancient Greece. Specifically, Leavy asserts that Rendell (who also writes as Barbara Vine) alludes to the family dysfunction of the House of Atreus circa the Trojan War, and the House of Laius and the incestuous marriage of Oedipus. Leavy also demonstrates how Rendell affirms and denies the theories of Freud and Jung, as well as the nature/nurture argument concerning individual responsibility for murder. Leavy does some marvelous detective work showing the depth and richness of Rendell’s other allusions, citing sources as disparate as Wordsworth and The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady. An ideal reader of this book would be familiar with Rendell and the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripedes. Those versed in Rendell’s early novels in the Inspector Wexford series will be rewarded since Leavy concentrates on those rather than on books written during the past two decades. This is an illuminating journey that should make Rendell devotees appreciate her even more. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 05/14/2012
Release date: 08/01/2012
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