Book review: Ruth Rendell — Portobello

Book 13 for 2010.

The scene is the Portobello Road in London, home to a sprawling market and to people from all walks of life, the wealthy middle class and those with no hope of a job. A middle-aged antiques dealer finds some cash dropped in the street, and rather than hand it to the police, advertises locally for the owner. Half a dozen lives cross and are entangled as a result, some knowing and some unknowing; setting them all on a path that will change some forever, and leave others dead.

Rendall starts with stock stereotypes, and then draws their lives in intimate detail, showing them as rounded characters with a mix of good and bad in their personalities. This is a psychological thriller, but it’s about ordinary people living ordinary lives; and how everyday pressures and events can lead into, and out of, tragedy. It has a mostly happy ending, and even the dead get some justice in the end, but these things depend on the small coincidences of ordinary life.

There’s a very strong sense of place in the book, excellent characterisation, and an engaging story. My own reaction to it was that I thoroughly enjoyed it and am glad I read it — but I have no desire to read it again, and no urge to go out and buy more by the same author. I’m not quite sure why this is so, as the book certainly doesn’t rely on the shock value of seeing the events unfold for the first time.

LibraryThing entry
buy from the Book Depository

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