Monday, January 13, 2014

Shake Hands Forever: Review

Despite the fact that neither Robert Hathall nor his wife Angela seemed particularly likeable...and that each appeared to outsiders to be as paranoid and "nervy" as all get out, no one seemed to dispute the fact that they were very much in love with each other.  There's not much money rolling about--Robert has been married before and his extra cash is destined for alimony and child support.  So...no jealousy motive, no money motive, and a poor showing of a burglary motive...why was Angela Hathall strangled to death in her own home and found dead in the bedroom by her mother-in-law?  From the beginning Inspector Reginald Wexford suspects the husband.  But Robert has an iron-clad alibi that puts him in London at the time Angela was being murdered in Kingsmarkham.

There's not a shred of proof to point to the husband (or anyone else for that matter) and Wexford's Chief Constable tells him to back off of Robert after the man complains that Wexford is persecuting him.  With no official backing...and even his subordinate Mike Burden wondering if the chief inspector doesn't just have a bee in his bonnet about the husband, Wexford uses up some of his leave time, employs an out of work acquaintance to "tail" Hathall, and even convinces his nephew, a police superintendent in London, to lend him a hand.  Has Wexford gotten obsessed with a single idea?  Is he over-reacting as his Chief Constable believes?  Or are they up against a murder more ingenious than anyone else can believe?

Shake Hands Forever employs a rather nice twist that readers with less crime fiction experience will definitely find surprising.  Even those of us who have been reading mysteries for thirty-some years can appreciate the way Ruth Rendell turns things upside down and forces you to look at the evidence from an entirely different point of view. And those of us with aging memories can even manage to be surprised while rereading.  I first read this about twenty years ago--I still managed to get tangled in the twist.  Not an incredible amount of action--the solution is more slow and steady wins the race than the hurly burly of a dramatic chase and slam-bang finish.  Lots of red herrings and it's fun to watch Inspector Wexford vamped by a beautiful witness.  Highly enjoyable read at 3.5 stars.


This book fulfills the "Set in England" square for the Silver Vintage Mystery Card:


8 comments:

bloodymurder said...

Greta revieew Bev - this has always been one of my absolutely favourite Wexford stories - a really cunning idea I thought.

fredamans said...

Nice review, sounds like an engaging book!

Bev Hankins said...

Freda:

I've always enjoyed Ruth Rendell. She writes the Wexford series, but she also does stand-alone books with a little more psychological twist to them.

Sergio: This is a good one. I probably would have rated this higher on my first read-through.

Major said...

Rendell is always skillful with pace, ramping up the suspense and menace until you wonder how she can possibly pull off an amazing reveal. And she always does. Her stand-alone psychological thrillers about misfits and couple driving each other nuts are as satisfying as Simenon's stand-alone crime novels.

S.J. said...

Great review! I've never read any of her books before but this one's already on my Want to Read list.

Charlie (The Worm Hole) said...

Sounds a good book! I've read about Rendell a lot recently but so far have forgotten to actually note her name down so I'm glad to read this.

Joy said...

Hopping over from the What's in a Name Challenge. This sounds like a mystery I would enjoy!

Joy's Book Blog

Bev Hankins said...

Hi, Joy! Rendell is really good. Hope you get a chance to try her sometime.