cover image Dark Corners

Dark Corners

Ruth Rendell. Scribner, $26 (240p) ISBN 978-1-5011-3478-4

MWA Grand Master Rendell (1930%E2%80%932015) often explored the lives of the luckless who are dogged by disastrous coincidence. In this, her final book, writer Carl Martin is one such hapless fellow. Carl inherits a choice townhouse in London's chic Maida Vale neighborhood. He's cash-poor while pounding out his second novel, so he rents the upper floor to a predatory tenant, Dermot McKinnon. A pious icicle, Dermot believes that Carl's stock of homeopathic medicines may have figured in the death of a friend of Carl's, 24-year-old TV actress Stacey Warren. Soon, Carl is fending off two blackmailers. As always in Rendell's work, the thoughtless and obtuse sow chaos for the careful and sensitive, and London shines as a strong presence. This is a beguiling, powerful novel, made poignant by the staggering realization that this is the last of a feast of characters and narratives. Everything that makes Rendell's work so memorable%E2%80%94gothic but believable people and plots, simple yet vivid prose, peerlessly rendered settings, and fear and despair as the twin "parents" of violence%E2%80%94is in evidence here. Readers may sigh along with one of the characters, when, in the last sentence, he remarks, "And now, now it's all over." Agent: Peter Matson, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Oct.)