cover image Thirteen Steps Down

Thirteen Steps Down

Ruth Rendell, . . Crown, $25 (340pp) ISBN 978-1-4000-9842-2

British veteran Rendell (The Rottweiler ) delivers the best novel she's written in years, featuring elderly Gwendolen Chawcer and her younger tenant-in-the-attic, "Mix" Cellini. The unlikely housemates share St. Blaise House, Chawcer's rotting London mansion, full of many generations of dead insects and past dreams of upper-middle-class glory. Both Chawcer and Cellini are looking for love in all the wrong places. Boozy, delusional Cellini—who earns his keep fixing fitness equipment and is a "fan" of real-life murderer Harold Christie—obsesses about supermodel Nerissa Nash. He'll do anything to snag her attention and assume his "rightful" place as her husband. The Miss Havisham–like Chawcer pines for Dr. Stephen Reeves, whom she last saw when he attended her dying mother in 1953. Cellini spins out of control first, killing a clingy, "unworthy" date, then hiding her beneath the floorboards in his apartment. Rendell exhibits all her trademark virtues: vivid characters, a plot addictive as crack and a sense of place unequaled in crime fiction. Agent, Peter Matson at Sterling Lord Literistic . (Oct.)