cover image Bridesmaid


Ruth Rendell. Mysterious Press, $28 (268pp) ISBN 978-0-89296-388-1

A young man fearful of violence, an extravagantly eccentric young woman and three deaths figure in this atmospheric but insubstantial mystery from one of England's finest horror/suspense writers. Philip Wardman, beginning his career as an interior designer, lives with his widowed mother and two sisters in a small house outside London. At his sister Fee's wedding, Philip meets Senta Pelham, cousin to the groom and a bridesmaid, with whom he falls quickly into bed and in love. Soon Senta, with her silver-dyed hair and exotic ways, tells Philip they must prove the unconventionality of their love: each must commit a murder. Secretly appalled, Philip demurs, but Senta is adamant and soon he tells her that a recent killing mentioned in the newspaper was done at his hand. When Senta files her own report, Philip is much relieved, believing through a series of misunderstandings that she too has laid false claims to murder. The reality of Senta's imbalance is gradually revealed, however, and the police appear on the scene just as she unveils her grisly history. While Rendell depicts her characters with crystal clarity and renders Philip's sexual obsessiveness convincingly, the plot, woven of flimsy circumstances, doesn't hold up. (Aug.)