Book Quote:

“He had never told anyone. The strange relationship, if it could be called that, had gone on for years, decades, and he had never breathed a word about it. He had kept silent because he knew no one would believe him. None of it could be proved, not the stalking, not the stares, the conspiratorial smiles, not the killings, not any of the signs Targo had made because he knew that Wexford knew and could do nothing about it.”

Book Review:

Review by Eleanor Bukowsky (OCT 14, 2009)

In Ruth Rendell’s The Monster in the Box, Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford takes center stage. In his mind’s eye, he relives his early days as a policeman and even recalls his youthful romances. Why this sudden attack of nostalgia? Wexford’s obsession with the past results from a renewed sighting of his nemesis, Eric Targo, whom Wexford believes has killed before and may kill again. The problem is that Wexford does not have a scintilla of proof that Targo has committed murder, and for many years, Wexford “had kept silent because he knew no one would believe him.”  Targo has stalked, smirked at, and mocked Wexford, knowing that the chief inspector cannot touch him. Has Wexford’s intense dislike of this man colored his thinking? Is it possible that Targo is guilty of nothing more than being an obnoxious bully? Finally, desperate to confide in someone, Reg reveals his suspicions to his long-time partner, Mike Burden.

Eric Targo, who is short and muscular, was born with a disfiguring purple-brown birthmark on his neck. Over the years, he has married repeatedly, embarked on a number of business ventures, and traveled from place to place. The first Mrs. Targo said of her husband, “He likes animals better than people. Well, he doesn’t like people at all.” After a decade of having no contact with Targo, the chief inspector still bitterly regrets his inability to bring this fiend to justice. Now that Targo is back in Kingsmarkham, Wexford has another chance to complete his mission. Although Targo’s formerly fair hair has turned white, he is still very muscular and he has a menacing aura of invincibility as he struts around town.

Another subplot involves Moslem parents named Mohammed and Yasmin Rahman, whose sixteen-year old daughter, Tamima, is an excellent student. However, Tamima is a bit too interested in boys and her family might want to arrange a “safe” marriage for her before she strays too far afield. Wexford’s subordinate, DS Hannah Goldsmith, fancies herself an “ethnic minorities officer” who champions diversity and multiculturalism. She and Detective Mike Burden’s wife, Jenny, formerly Tamima’s history teacher, decide to intervene on the young lady’s behalf. They hope to persuade Tamima’s parents that their daughter would benefit greatly from higher education. Mr. and Mrs. Rahman do not appreciate interference from outsiders, even if it is well-intentioned. In the past, Rendell has repeatedly demonstrated how the huge wave of immigration from Asia is changing the face of England and setting the stage for ugly religious and cultural conflicts.

The Monster in the Box is a brilliantly constructed novel in which Rendell gives us a fascinating peek at the young Wexford as he tries to make his mark in his chosen profession. Reggie is a richly developed and appealing character whose compassion, good judgment, insight, love of learning, and willingness to admit his mistakes are thoroughly refreshing. Rendell’s literate writing flows effortlessly, the dialogue is sharp and often amusingly sardonic, and her descriptive writing is vivid and concise. This book would be worthwhile solely for the back story of how Reggie met and married and his wife after a series of unproductive relationships.

The Targo plot is thoroughly chilling. Wexford is convinced that this individual has ruthlessly killed a number of men and women whom he barely knew. However, what is his motive (if indeed he has one)? Furthermore, unless Targo strikes again and is caught in the act, there is nothing that Wexford can do. He recalls old murder cases that may have been Targo’s handiwork and investigates a new one that hits much too close to home. Gradually, Wexford closes in on a brute who may be the epitome of evil or simply an unpleasant person who, for some reason, has become the focus of Reggie’s intense dislike. Ruth Rendell plays with our minds and keeps us guessing in this multi-faceted and engrossing novel of psychological suspense.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 67 readers
PUBLISHER: Scribner (October 13, 2009)
REVIEWER: Eleanor Bukowsky
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Wikipedia page on Ruth Rendell
EXTRAS: Reading Guide and Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read a review of the first Insp. Wexford in this long series:

and the most recent:

And some of Rendell’s outstanding stand-alone novels:

Also, some of her books written as Barbara Vine


Inspector Wexford Mysteries:

Standalone Mysteries & Psychological Thrillers:


Movies from books:

October 14, 2009 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Sleuths Series, United Kingdom, y Award Winning Author

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