cover image The Copper Peacock, and Other Stories

The Copper Peacock, and Other Stories

Ruth Rendell. Mysterious Press, $17.95 (183pp) ISBN 978-0-89296-465-9

The marvelous title story, like most in this collection of nine tales by British doyenne of suspense, Edgar-winning Rendell, delights with its fine-tuned psychological effects. Egotist Bernard borrows a friend's flat to ensure quiet while he writes a book. Flattered by the awed, pretty maid, Judy, who tidies up and serves him exquisite lunches but arrives for work each day increasingly bruised and battered, Bernard cringes with mortification when Judy gives him an ugly but costly peacock-shaped bookmark. The denouement is a master stroke. A mousy woman in ``A Pair of Yellow Lilies'' takes a young lover, enticed by his angelic beauty and vividly embroidered jacket, and a subtle criminal trade-off occurs. Another tit-for-tat tale, one that cat fanciers will warm to, ``Long Live the Queen'' features a snarly elegant feline who finds her regal niche after another cat is killed. Murder is the theme in ``Mother's Help,'' in which a handsome man enlists the unwitting aid of his children in getting rid of tiresome wives. In the ghoulish ``The Fish Sitter,'' an aquarium claims human prey. Chief Inspector Wexford, from Rendell's Kingsmarkham series, appears in ``An Unwanted Woman,'' his equanimity threatened by a spooky teenage runaway. Rendell's signature is the malevolence of the day-to-day, shot through with currents of wit and whimsy. (Oct.)