Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter

KISSING THE GUNNER’S DAUGHTER is another suspenseful book by Ruth Rendell, one of the world’s best-loved mystery writers, and the fifteenth novel involving the sensitive, thoughtful Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford. The book begins with a bank robbery in which a policeman is killed. The scene then changes to a seemingly unrelated event, the shooting of four people at a manor house, the famous and wealthy writer Davina Flory, her husband, her daughter, and her granddaughter, Daisy Flory, who is the only survivor.

As his investigations proceed, Wexford worries not only about Daisy’s mental state but also about danger to her from the killer. His concern for her is doubtless intensified because he feels so helpless about his own daughter, Sheila, who seems to be spellbound by an egocentric writer whom Wexford cannot stand. Ironically, while he desperately hopes that Sheila will break up with her lover, Wexford keeps wishing just the opposite for the bereft Daisy, that she will find someone to care for her other than the boyfriend to whom she seems indifferent.

Rendell is famous for her psychological insight and for her skill in maintaining suspense. In KISSING THE GUNNER’S DAUGHTER, both qualities are evident. The fact that when Wexford manages to glimpse the inner selves of his suspects, he finds that a great many of them are capable of murder is not only a preoccupation of the author but a clever plot device as well. The presence of so many suspects keeps the tension high, and it continues to build through two more murders. Then, in one of Rendell’s best finales, Wexford reveals the truth, which is no less surprising for being psychologically valid.