Originally published 2016-01-06: The Fallen Curtain by Ruth Rendell | Book Review Wednesday
My second anthology in as many months, this one was even more enjoyable than the last. This was one of those books that I had hoarded away in a box in the back of the closet after a library book sale. I had never heard of Ruth Rendell before, so I’m glad that the cover caught my eye.
Within The Fallen Curtain by Ruth Rendell are eleven mystery stories, including the one from which the anthology gets its name, are all slow-burning mystery gems.
A stranger lures a child into his car with the promise of sweets. A young man spots his fiancée’s double in a public park of ill repute. An executive visits the secluded home of a former employee whose intentions are frightfully unclear. A modest soul weds the woman he rescues from suicide—only to fall victim to an unfathomable form of possessiveness…
In the eleven tales gathered in The Fallen Curtain, Ruth Rendell—the grande dame of the literary mystery—lays bare the twisted inner workings of the unbalanced mind. Here are eleven tales of haunting psychological accuracy: the gesture that betrays a parent’s madness, the childhood memory clouded with denial, the utterance that introduces the threat of violence in a situation as benign as a dinner date. Instantly engaging, maddeningly addictive, The Fallen Curtain testifies to the enduring talents of a master of the genre.
The Fallen Curtain is the story of a boy whose life is changed when he takes an unscheduled detour on a walk to his grandmother’s house, and again when he visits that spot as a man.
In People Don’t Do Such Things, a man learns that people aren’t always who they say they are, especially to the naïve.
Bringing to mind The Tell-Tale Heart, the man in A Bad Heart must face his own terrible, greedy actions on a stormy night.
The main character of You Can’t Be Too Careful is precise to the point of paranoia. She double- and triple-checks locks in secret until the day her roommate leaves the latch open one last time.
Whether you call them doppelgangers, evil twins, or something else, everyone has heard some snatch of myth or legend about them. The Double explores what happens when a girl raised in an occult family sees her mirror image in the park.
Venus’ Fly-Trap was one of the stories I was most eager to read out of this collection. I’ve always been fascinated by the mouthy little things, and they take center-stage in this tale.
The perfect wife is every straight man’s dream, right? Unfortunately for the man in His Worst Enemy, perfect can be more than any single person can handle.
The Vinegar Mother is the story of a young girl on holiday with a broken family, and the horrible implications of a gift on a flighty parent.
Most people know what it’s like to be in a bad relationship, but most marriages aren’t as ugly as the one in The Fall of a Coin.
Animal-lovers will enjoy Almost Human, the tale of a man, his beloved pets, and the unusual way he has of taking care of them.
The last story in the collection is a powerful way to end this group of amazing mysteries. Two sisters, an ailing mother, and mental illness play tug-of-war with fate in Divided We Stand.
After reading The Fallen Curtain, I put a few more of Rendell’s books on my TBR List. I can see how she ended up winning an Edgar Award with these meticulously planned stories. The build-up is like waiting for footfalls on the stairs in the middle of the night. When the inevitable eeriness finally hits, it’s like a serum on frazzled nerves.
Four of four stars! I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys quick-reading mysteries.
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