The Inspiration of Ruth Rendell
By Barbara Leavy
Poisoned Pen Press, $19.95, 250 pages
Literary criticism books typically fall into two categories for the reader: mind-numbingly boring or fascinating. Happily, Barbara Leavy’s new book, The Fiction of Ruth Rendell: Ancient Tragedy and the Modern Family, falls into the latter category. The author carefully and succinctly details the ancient sources and inspiration for Rendell’s works that come from ancient masters like Euripides and Sophocles. With her particular focus on parent-child and family relationships, the author draws comparisons between the Rendell’s novels and the stories of Oedipus and Electra and shows how they are seen throughout the bulk of Rendell’s work. The author also successfully shows the use of Freudian theories throughout Rendell’s work and how it influenced her to write not only “whodunits” but also “whydunits”, the reasoning behind the crimes. On the whole, the book is an exciting look at the influences, both classic and modern, on Ruth Rendell’s body of work. Fans of Ruth Rendell, or mysteries in general, will enjoy this book.
Reviewed by Barbara Cothern