08 August 2011

Review: Tigerlily's Orchids by Ruth Rendell

Ruth Rendell's latest stand-alone psychological mystery, Tigerlily's Orchids, is set in a north London neighborhood and focuses more on the characters than on the murder.

Each resident in Litchfield House has an obsession, from the self-absorption of the young, handsome, and newly rich Stuart to the pedophile urges of the caretaker, Wally. When the neighbors gather at Stuart's flat-warming party, they barely know each other, but the events of that evening set off a year-long downward spiral of exposed secrets, murder, and death, forever linking the group.

Tigerlily's Orchids is a textbook example of the power of showing instead of telling. Through Rendell's attention to detail and use of changing view points, readers learn the innermost desires of each individual as well as his or her public image. For example, we meet Olwen, the sixty-year-old widow in flat 6, who has waited her whole life to be in the position to drink as much as she wanted, and in fact, she hopes to drink herself to death. Olwen believes it's her right to do as she pleases, although she didn't figure on becoming too infirm to buy her own gin. When she finally has to ask the other residents to deliver her booze to her door, readers see Olwen in a different light--as a drunk whose addiction can be exploited.

The murder comes late to the book, and although the victim is easy to predict, the perpetrator is not. Fortunately, readers expecting a straightforward suspense thriller will find they are more interested in the story of the neighborhood than they are in the death. In fact, the solution is almost incidental.

Tigerlily's Orchids is an engaging character study but is not without flaws. The murder has unexpected and far-reaching effects among the characters, but Rendell spends little time on its investigation or on the investigation of other exposed crimes. In addition, some plot lines are followed too closely, whereas others are left too much to the reader's imagination. Finally, although trivial, readers may wonder why a secondary character like Tigerlily warranted title billing.

Despite the few weaknesses, Tigerlily's Orchids will appeal to Rendell fans and fans of psychological thrillers and character studies.

My review of the unabridged audio edition (Simon & Schuster, 7 hr, 50 min), nicely read by Nickolas Grace, will be published by AudioFile magazine.

Tigerlily's Orchids at Powell's
Tigerlily's Orchids at Book Depository
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Published by Scribner, 2011
ISBN-13: 9781439150344
YTD: 74
Source: Review (see review policy)
Rating: B-
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

11 comments:

Julie P. 8/8/11, 7:52 AM  

I've never given Rendell a try before. Maybe I'll try an audio first!

Beth Hoffman 8/8/11, 8:38 AM  

You've got me curious about this one. I just might give it a go!

Have a terrific week.

Nise' 8/8/11, 9:14 AM  

I listened to her book Portobello and enjoyed it. I may check this one out as well.

Pam (@iwriteinbooks) 8/8/11, 11:50 AM  

Intersting! Sometimes I find murder mysteries a bit farfetched in their conclusion even i8f the rest is well done and believable. I think sometimes I just need to enjoy the ride and forget about disbelief for a bit when it comes to the wild endings.

bermudaonion 8/8/11, 2:43 PM  

I've never read Rendell's work but you've made me very curious about it.

Amy 8/8/11, 4:11 PM  

I haven't read any of Rendell's mysteries yet and the character study aspect of this one appeals to me. I like when a murder mystery has more to the story than just the murder and figuring out who did it. Additionally Rendell's characters here sounds like a group of qurky, somewhat absurd individuals which I usually enjoy. I tend to expect a lot from murder mysteries and thrillers but because the focus is on the characters in this book I think I might really enjoy Tigerlily's Orchids. Thank you for a wonderful review!

Sandy Nawrot 8/8/11, 4:16 PM  

Ruth Rendell is an amazing crime thriller writer with substance. I've only read a few of her books, but every one of them really raises the bar for everyone else out there. I put her in the category of Jo Nesbo or Tana French.

caite 8/8/11, 7:40 PM  

a long time since I read any Rendell, but I too used to love her books.
maybe I will wait until the price comes down or my library gets a copy.

Col (Col Reads) 8/9/11, 6:19 AM  

This sounds interesting, but maybe I'll try one of Rendell's other books first. I get kind of annoyed when the crime in a crime novel comes really late!

Veens 8/9/11, 10:18 AM  

I haven't tried any books by this author and this one really does not appeal to me, I will give it a pass.

Jenners 8/9/11, 8:11 PM  

Can you believe I've never read a book by Ruth Rendell? I should probably change that at some point.

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