Going Wrong

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In GOING WRONG, Ruth Rendell traces the progress of an obsession in the twisted mind of her protagonist, Guy Curran, who is determined to marry his childhood sweetheart, Leonora Chisholm. Unfortunately, Guy will not accept the fact that, as a moral adult, Leonora is repulsed by his immorality, that she cannot be won by the offer of his ill-gotten wealth or even by his devotion to her. When he learns that she is planning to marry someone else, he proceeds through denial and anger, but instead of moving to acceptance, he determines to find and to kill the person who he is convinced has poisoned Leonora’s mind against him. As Guy pieces together what he considers evidence, he selects first one unknowing victim for execution, then another and another. Eventually, however, Guy’s crimes come back to haunt him, and he loses both Leonora and his freedom.

Ruth Rendell’s novel tend to fall into two categories: detective stories, such as A GUILTY THING SURPRISED (1970), in which the reader accompanies a sleuth as he relentlessly pursues a killer, and thrillers like GOING WRONG and THE LAKE OF DARKNESS (1980), in which the reader follows the would-be killer as he selects and relentlessly stalks a victim. While these formats differ greatly, Rendell’s novels are alike in two major respects: They are flawlessly plotted, and they penetrate the dark places of the human heart in a way which is both compelling and memorable.