Review: Wolf to the Slaughter by Ruth Rendell

Wolf to the slaughter

Title: Wolf to the Slaughter (Inspector Wexford #3)

Author: Ruth Rendell

Category: Mystery – Police Procedural

Published: 1967

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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Anita Margolis has vanished. Dark and exquisite, Anita’s character is as mysterious as her disappearance. But with no body and no apparent crime, seemingly there’s nothing to be investigated.

Until Wexford receives an anonymous note claiming “a girl called Ann” was killed the very night Anita disappeared. But how seriously should they take the note?

With only one questionable lead to follow, Wexford and Inspector Burden are compelled to make enquiries. They soon discover Anita is wealthy, flighty, and thoroughly immoral. Burden has a very clear idea of what has happened to her. But Wexford has his own suspicions.

There’s no body – and I mean for the majority of the book which is unusual for a murder mystery. But clearly someone has been killed, nothing else could leave that large a blood stain on the carpet of a rented room.

We’ve got two things going on in the books – first the investigation which winds in and around the small town. Wexford is his usual calm, insightful self. Burden is, as always, a little more judgemental and likely to jump to conclusions. As they navigate through the clues, they come in contact with a variety of people, including several who are well-known to them due to prior encounters. It becomes hard to tell who are the victims and who are the criminals, which I think is one of the strong points of the story. It all comes together in the end, but in the midst of it it’s difficult to see where the plot’s going. The focus is less on Wexford than on the case though. He doesn’t have the central role that he does in some of the others in the series.

The more human side of the story involves a relatively new officer, Drayton, who is attracted to/ in love with a young woman who becomes entwined in the investigation. She obviously knows something, but just how much is up for debate. His obsession with her fogs his judgement and he just can’t leave her alone even when Wexford suggests it.

The ending caught me off-guard. I didn’t see the twist coming, even though I certainly should have. There were enough clues, but I was looking at things the wrong way.

This is a bit of a spoiler, but I’ve been complaining about the women characters in mysteries lately. Once again, this is definitely a male-dominated story- even the one woman who has a bit of backbone in the end is desperate for a man to help her get out of the situation she’s locked herself into.

Chief Inspector Wexford Series

  1. From Doon with Death
  2. A New Lease of Death (apa: Sins of the Fathers)
  3. Wolf to the Slaughter
  4. The Best Man To Die
  5. A Guilty Thing Surprised
  6. No More Dying Then
  7. Murder Being Once Done
  8. Some Lie and Some Die
  9. Shake Hands Forever
  10. A Sleeping Life
  11. Put on by Cunning (apa: Death Notes)
  12. The Speaker of Mandarin
  13. An Unkindness of Ravens
  14. The Veiled One
  15. Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter
  16. Simisola
  17. Road Rage
  18. Harm Done
  19. The Babes in the Wood
  20. End in Tears
  21. Not in the Flesh
  22. The Monster in the Box
  23. The Vault

Short Stories

  • Means of Evil and Other Stories

Challenge: WAYR

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