Review by: Heather Darcy



Adam and Eve and Pinch Me
ISBN: 0609610252
By Ruth Rendell

Baroness Rendell of Babergh -- more commonly known as Ruth Rendell -- has done it to me again. Once again, her latest novel kept me up late at night reading, going into work groggy, and vowing never to do it again, only to repeat this cycle several times until I finish reading the book. Her latest mystery novel -- Adam and Eve and Pinch Me -- is much like others I’ve read by her: taut, compelling prose with the occasional shiver up my spine. Her books are filled with characters that seem to be "normal" to others, and can often function well in the outside world. It is their private life that is frightening and their inability to resists their compulsions. They are often outsiders of some sort.

I guess you could say I’m a bit of a fan of Ruth Rendell. And I’m not the only one; Rendell has won three Edgars for best novel by the Mystery Writers of America, as well as the Golden Master Award. In her native England, she has also won two Golden Dagger awards (for best novel), a Silver Dagger, and a Diamond Dagger for her incredible contribution to the mystery/crime genre.

The book begins by introducing us to Araminta -- better known as Minty -- a young woman with obsessive-compulsive symptoms who needs to shower several times a day in order to feel "clean," and knocks on wood several times a day to prevent some unforeseen disaster. She’s haunted by the ghost of her former lover, Jock, (also known as Jerry to some characters in the book, and Jeff to others) who often visits her, clad in his usual leather jacket. Nearly penniless and living alone, she’s also visited by a number of other specters, namely her deceased aunt, who "heard voices" when she was alive. But these ghosts are merely annoying to her, while Jock’s ghost is persistent and terrifying. And to make matters worse, Jock’s ghost won’t even give her an answer when she asks him what he did with the large sum of money he borrowed from her just before his death.

Other characters include Jim, a Conservative member of Parliament who is gay and feels pressured to get married in order to maintain status quo; Zillah, who accepts his marriage proposal (with a full understanding of his sexuality) for financial stability; and the loving couple, Matthew (who suffers from anorexia) and Michelle, his full-figured wife.

Remarkably, all of these characters' lives intersect because of a series of coincidences, with all roads leading back to Jock/Jerry/Jeff. Jerry was Zillah’s former husband and the father of her two children. And Matthew and Michelle’s wealthy friend, Fiona has a new man in her life called Jeff. But is he the same man Zillah was married to and Minty dated? Isn’t he supposed to be dead? I’m sure I’m making the plot seem a lot more complicated than it really is. Part of Rendell’s genius is managing to craft a detailed plot without any confusion, without the coincidences seeming contrived.

Whether or not we believe Minty’s phantoms are real, we still want to read more. Although Minty’s is only one of the six main characters we get to know through the novel, she was the most interesting to me. I especially admire her knack for being somewhat deranged, yet still managing to keep the cleanest house on her block.

More recommendations by Rendell:

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