Sunday, February 15, 2015

13 Steps Down

Ruth Rendell's 13 Steps Down is a psychological thriller based entirely on obsession. Mix Cellini is obsessed with two things murder and beauty. Or, rather, the murders of serial killer Reggie Christie, hanged over fifty years ago for the murders of eight women or more, and the beauty of supermodel Nerissa Nash. He has read everything available on Christie and recently moved into a flat in a decrepit house in Nottinghill--the old stomping grounds of Christie. He's thrilled to pieces to find out that Gwendolen Chawcer, his landlady had some sort of connection to the killer and he develops his own theory what that connection might have been. Nerissa he worships from afar and he develops elaborate plans to find a way to meet her. But will his obsessions be his undoing?

Gwendolen Chawcer has a few obsessions of her own--reading and dwelling on the only man she ever loved, Dr. Stephen Reeves. She's sure that Reeves would have asked her to marry him if fate hadn't interfered. And when she learns that he has recently become a widower she's certain that he'll come back to her...if she can just find the right words to write to him.

Nerissa Nash is a supermodel who only wants to settle down with the boy next door. Or rather, the boy who grew up next door to her when she lived at home with her parents. But--despite her fame--he doesn't seem to know she exists. When she notices the man stalking her, she hopes it's a blessing in disguise...a way to get Darel Jones to come to her rescue so they can live happily ever after.

Danila Kovic works at a health spa that Nerissa seems to frequent. Cellini sees Danila as a way to get into the spa and get close Nerissa. And Danila thinks she's found a boyfriend at last. When she discovers Cellini's interest in the supermodel, she makes a few inadvisable comments out of jealousy. But will she lose more than a potential boyfriend?

The obsessive forces at work in Cellini's life bring these four people together and it is obvious that trouble is brewing. Very psychological and suspenseful--depending entirely on a view of each character's thoughts and fantasies to bring about the final tragedy. Ruth Rendell writes a compelling story...but bleak. Oh so bleak and creepy. I couldn't put it down, but I can't say it was enjoyable. But that is something Rendell is very good at--creating stories that make the reader uncomfortable; stories that give us a peek at the unpleasant side of human nature; stories that we'd rather not know about...and making them so compelling that we have to know what happens. ★★

“Goodness, Mr. Cellini, I've not time to answer all these questions. I've got to get on.'" 
With what? She seldom did anything but read, as far as he knew. She must have read thousands of books, she was always at it. (p. 4)

She was happiest when sitting about and reading. She had read thousands of books seeing no point in doing anything else unless you had to. (p. 24)


Jacquie said...

Bev, your reviews keep getting better and better. Professional quality! (Actually, better than a lot of professional reviews I read.) You're so right about Rendell's books. I have this one but haven't been able to pick it up. It's a hard place for me to go because I know I'll be entering a dark and bleak world filled with largely unpleasant characters I wouldn't want to meet in real life. Her books are psychologically gripping however, and it's hard to find an author who does "creepy" better.

Bev Hankins said...

Thanks, Jacqueline! I appreciate your response to my writing.

fredamans said...

Obsession usually makes for great thriller reads. Bleak and creepy are not supposed to go together. Still, I'm intrigued. The oh, so creepy really pulled me in. I like creepy.
Fab review!

Bev Hankins said...

Freda, the bleakness comes in because there really isn't a happy ending for any of these people.