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Ruth Rendell

Rendell in August 2007
Born 17 February 1930 (1930-02-17) (age 80)
South Woodford, London
Occupation Novelist
Genres psychological thriller, murder mystery

Ruth Barbara Rendell, Baroness Rendell of Babergh, CBE, (born 17 February 1930), who also writes under the pseudonym Barbara Vine, is a prolific English crime writer, acclaimed for her fine psychological thrillers and murder mysteries.

In addition to police procedurals starring her most iconic creation, Chief Inspector Wexford, Rendell (pronounced /ˈrɛndl, not /rɛnˈdɛl//) writes psychological crime novels exploring such themes as romantic obsession, misperceived communication, the impact of chance and coincidence, and the humanity of the criminals involved. Among such books are A Judgement In Stone, The Face of Trespass, Live Flesh, Talking to Strange Men, The Killing Doll, Going Wrong and Adam and Eve and Pinch Me. Many credit her and close friend P. D. James for upgrading the entire genre of whodunit, shaping it more into a whydunit. Rendell's protagonists are often socially isolated, suffer from mental illness, and/or are otherwise disadvantaged; she explores the adverse impacts of their circumstances on these characters as well as on their victims.

Rendell created a third strand of writing with the publication in 1986 of A Dark-Adapted Eye under her pseudonym Barbara Vine (the name derives from her own middle name and her grandmother's maiden name). King Solomon's Carpet, A Fatal Inversion and Asta's Book (alternative US title, Anna's Book), among others, inhabit the same territory as her psychological crime novels while further developing themes of human misunderstandings and the unintended consequences of family secrets and hidden crimes. Rendell is famous for her elegant prose and sharp insights into the human mind, as well as her ability to create cogent plots and characters. Rendell has also injected the social changes of the last 40 years into her work, bringing awareness to such issues as domestic violence and the change in the status of women.

Rendell has received many awards for her writing, including the Silver, Gold, and Cartier Diamond Daggers from the Crime Writers' Association, three Edgars from the Mystery Writers of America, The Arts Council National Book Awards, and the The Sunday Times Literary Award. A number of her works have been adapted for film or television.



She was made CBE in 1996 and a life peer as Baroness Rendell of Babergh, near Aldeburgh in Suffolk in 1997. She sits in the House of Lords for Labour.

In 1998 Rendell was named in a list of the biggest private financial donors to the Labour Party (UK).[1]

Early life

Born in South Woodford, London, the daughter of teachers, Ruth (Barbara), née Grasemann, was educated at the County High School for Girls in Loughton, Essex. She then worked as a journalist for Essex newspapers. She was fired after writing an article on the local Tennis Club's annual dinner, which she had not actually attended, thereby missing the untimely death of the after-dinner speaker mid-speech. She wrote two unpublished novels before the 1964 publication of From Doon With Death, which was purchased for £75 by John Long; it was the first mystery to feature her enduring and popular detective Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford. Wexford's most recent case is The Monster in the Box, released in October 2009. It is also widely rumored to be Wexford's last case.[2]



Inspector Wexford series

  1. From Doon With Death (1964)
  2. A New Lease of Death (1967) (American title: The Sins of the Fathers)
  3. Wolf to the Slaughter (1967)
  4. The Best Man to Die (1969)
  5. A Guilty Thing Surprised (1970)
  6. No More Dying Then (1971)
  7. Murder Being Once Done (1972)
  8. Some Lie And Some Die (1973)
  9. Shake Hands Forever (1975)
  10. A Sleeping Life (1979)
  11. Put on By Cunning (1981) (American title: Death Notes)
  12. The Speaker of Mandarin (1983)
  13. An Unkindness of Ravens (1985)
  14. The Veiled One (1988)
  15. Kissing the Gunner's Daughter (1992)
  16. Simisola (1994)
  17. Road Rage (1997)
  18. Harm Done (1999)
  19. The Babes in the Wood (2002)
  20. End in Tears (2005)
  21. Not in the Flesh (2007)
  22. The Monster in the Box (2009)

Written as Barbara Vine


Short story collections

Uncollected short stories

  • In the Time of His Prosperity* (as Barbara Vine)


  • Ruth Rendell's Suffolk (1989)
  • Undermining the Central Line: giving government back to the people (with Colin Ward, 1989) a political tract
  • The Reason Why: An Anthology of the Murderous Mind (1995)

Awards and honours

Adaptations of her works

The Inspector Wexford series was successfully televised, starring acclaimed British actor George Baker as Inspector Wexford and Christopher Ravenscroft as Detective Mike Burden, with 48 episodes from 1987 to 2000.

Many of her other works have been adapted for film and television. She has said that Chabrol's 1995 version of A Judgement in Stone, La Cérémonie with Sandrine Bonnaireis one of the few film adaptations of her work that she is happy with. The novel was also filmed in 1986 with Rita Tushingham. Chabrol also made La Demoiselle d'honneur in 2004, based on The Bridesmaid.

Other adaptations are Diary of the Dead (1976) from the book One Across, Two Down); the 1997 Pedro Almodóvar film Live Flesh; The Tree of Hands, directed by Giles Foster for Granada with Lauren Bacall; and another version of The Tree of Hands, Betty Fisher et autres histoires (2001, aka Alias Betty), with screenplay and direction by Claude Miller.


External links

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