Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Simisola by Ruth Rendell

Like I mentioned before, that book on women crime writers made me want to read more crime and so I did. Simisola was one of the books analysed, and it sounded really interesting so I picked it up. It's an Inspector Wexford mystery (to be specific it's a police procedural) but I think it can be read as a standalone. As for the plot, that's a bit harder to describe but here goes:

The daughter of Inspector Wexford's GP, Melanie Akande, has gone missing. As Wexford investigates, the body of Annette Bystock, who was probably the last person to see her. And then another body turns up.

This is a police procedural with an intricate plot and an overarching theme. Wexford is a decent man who is struggling in a world that has changed without him knowing. The change being that England is no longer 99% white.

This investigation leads him to recognise and confront his hidden prejudices while painting a bleak picture of England right now. Life isn't easy for anyone, and a lot of people clearly aren't coping well. At times, it felt like Ruth Rendell hammered in the "England is racist" message a bit too strongly and made it very obvious, but for the most part, she let the characters and the story indict themselves. For example (possible spoilers if you didn't read the blurb) when the second body is found, Inspector Wexford immediately assumed it was Melanie because the victim was black, even going as far as to break the news to her parents. When they realise it's not her, their anger is heartbreaking and a huge moment of realisation of how unconsciously racist he is for Wexford.

The only weak point of the book (apart from veering dangerously close to preachy occasionally) is that it'a really, really complicated. Perhaps my brain isn't just working but despite reading most of the book in one sitting (woohoo for free days with no plans), when the murderer was revealed my first reaction was "who?" Wexford does do a recap, which I was grateful for, but unlike most mysteries, the reveal was more confusing than de-mystifying.

If you want a mystery that makes the problem of racism a part of the story, you'll want to pick this book up. It is a grim, bleak read, but it is a worthwhile one because we always need to be confronted with our hidden prejudices.


  1. This sounds really good, Eustacia. I read another of Rendell's books years ago and really liked it.

    1. Oooh, which of her books did you read? I'm interested in reading more from her but I have no idea where to start.


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