On Saturday, May 2, the Baroness Rendell of Babergh died in London. Known to her fans around the world as Ruth Rendell, she was an enormously talented writer. Her writing style pushed the mystery into new areas and ways of storytelling. Her best known character was Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford, who appeared in more than 60 books. The most recent in this series, “The Girl Next Door,” was published last year.
In addition, to her Wexford mysteries, Rendell also wrote dozens of stand-alone novels. Writing as Barbara Vine, her book sales numbered as many as 60 million. Ruth Rendell’s final novel, “Dark Corners,” will be published in October.
If there is a section of heaven reserved for mystery writers, Ruth Rendell will join P.D. James, who died last year. The Baroness James of Holland Park, created her own distinctive mysteries. Featured in 14 novels, James’ protagonist was the detective/poet Adam Dalgliesh. His last appearance was in 2013 in “The Private Patient.” James liked Rendell also wrote stand-alone novels. Her recently published “Death Comes to Pemberley” was a continuation of “Pride and Prejudice.”
These award-winning English novelists were according to fellow mystery writer Val McDermid responsible, with British writer Reginald Hill, for “transforming what had become a staid and formulaic genre into something that offered scope for a different kind of crime novel. In their separate ways, they turned it into a prism for examining the world around them with a critical eye.” They will be greatly missed.