Ruth Rendell Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Ruth Rendell moved both the detective and suspense genres toward serious fiction, as did Wilkie Collins in the nineteenth century. She does this not only with her well-crafted style but also with her concern for psychological analysis of both the criminal mind and the investigator’s mind, often also encompassing the victim’s mind. She structures her plots and subplots using a sophisticated parallelism, and there is a keen awareness of the context of literature within the plotting. There is, in other words, a conscious literariness as well as a conscious crafting in her fiction. Her awareness of contemporary British culture and its crosscurrents melds strongly with concrete description and accurate characterization. In achieving this, Rendell has shown younger writers the demands of the genre and how it can be developed.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Bakerman, Jane S. “Ruth Rendell.” In Ten Women of Mystery, edited by Earl Bargainnier. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green University Press, 1981. A sound assessment of Rendell’s work, set against a number of other female writers.

DeAndrea, William L. Encyclopedia Mysteriosa: A Comprehensive Guide to the Art of Detection in Print, Film, Radio, and Television. New York: Prentice Hall, 1994. A vast compendium of information on the genres in which Rendell excels.

Dubose, Martha Hailey, with Margaret Caldwell Thomas. Women of Mystery: The Lives and Works of Notable Women Crime Novelists. New York: St. Martin’s Minotaur, 2000. A look at female mystery writers from Mary Roberts Rinehart to cozy writers such as Agatha Christie to modern writers such as Ruth Rendell. Essay on Rendell calls her “a writer for our paranoid times.” Contains list of works through 1999.

Lindsay, Elizabeth Blakesley, ed. Great Women Mystery Writers. 2d ed. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2007. Contains an essay that discusses Rendell’s work and her life and their interactions.

Munt, Sally R. Murder by the Book? Feminism and the Crime Novel. London: Routledge, 1994. Tries to place Rendell in the feminist debate over this genre. Munt poses a number of crucial questions about the genre as a whole and why it has been so much used in antiestablishment writing.

Reynolds, Moira Davison. Women Authors of Detective Series: Twenty-one American and British Authors, 1900-2000. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2001. Examines the life and work of major female mystery writers, including Rendell.

Rowland, Susan. From Agatha Christie to Ruth Rendell: British Women Writers in Detective and Crime Fiction. London: Palgrave, 2001. This is the best introduction to Rendell. Rowland covers forty-two novels by various crime writers, putting them within the context of their lives and culture. She examines the drift toward the gothic as well as toward feminist stances. An interview with Rendell is included.

Symons, Julian. Bloody Murder: From the Detective Story to the Crime Novel. London: Viking, 1985. An overall survey of the genre, but pp. 177-180 give a detailed critique of Rendell’s place in the wider picture.

Winn, Dilys. Murderess Ink: The Better Half of the Mystery. New York: Workman, 1979. An entertaining look at English women mystery writers.

Woeller, Waltraud, and Bruce Cassiday. The Literature of Crime and Detection: An Illustrated History from Antiquity to the Present. New York: Ungar, 1988. Places Rendell’s work neatly within the context of the British psychological thriller.