[Ruth Rendell] A New Lease of Death

  • Title: A New Lease of Death
  • Author: Ruth Rendell
  • Published: 1967
  • Book: Wexford an Omnibus (1987)
  • Publisher: Mysterious Press / Arrow books
  • ISBN: 0 09 956640 0

“Do you believe her?” Archery cared.
“Ah, That’s another matter. I don’t care, you see. I don’t care one way or the other. It’s so easy not to ask, Mr. Archery. just to do nothing and accept.
“But I care,” said Archery.

from the Book

A New Lease of Death is the second “Inspector Wexford” series book. It might not be her best, but the book most clearly shows how British people think about social classes and heritages.

The book is a mystery without any mysteries. It reexamines the first case of Inspector Wexford due to somehow dubious but serious reasons of a protagonist, Reverand Henry Archery. The case was clear, and there was and are no doubt about who had done it. But Rendell directs readers to interpret the accident in different directions. However, the novel is not about the murder case. It is about people’s prejudices toward others and how to form opinions about them.

Even though Reverand Archery is a man of religion, his view of others is very secular. Like other Rendell’s books, characters in the story seem normal and typical at first, but they reveal their slightly twisted minds through their actions, reactions, and dialogs. There is no hero or genius to solve the problem or tackle the common misconceptions. They seem reasonable but not logical. They generally act properly, but they seem selfish and narrow-minded. They are just like anybody else.

It is amazing to see how deeply the idea of class engraves into the general minds of British people when I read British books or watch British movies or dramas. The ending of “A New Lease of Death” makes me feel empty and somewhat frustrated. A girl, whose father was a murder but is intelligent and acts as a person of a different class, turned out to be a daughter of a different person. It is uncomfortable to see a person as a product of a prior generation rather than an entity of its own.

The book reminds me of why I keep reading Ruth Rendell. It is not a complex web of mysteries, and it is about how complicated, subtle, and vulnerable people are.

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