This is an excellent book with a very unsettling premise -- about the consequences of functional illeteracy. In fact, the first sentence of this class Rendell mystery tells you the murders happened because the killer (a young woman) couldn't read or write. I'm loath to part with this book, but I have only so much room!
"A classic."--The London Times
What on earth could have provoked a modern day St. Valentine's Day massacre?
On Valentine's Day, four members of the Coverdale family--George, Jacqueline, Melinda and Giles--were murdered in the space of 15 minutes. Their housekeeper, Eunice Parchman, shot them, one by one, in the blue light of a televised performance of Don Giovanni. When Detective Chief Superintendent William Vetch arrests Miss Parchman two weeks later, he discovers a second tragedy: the key to the Valentine's Day massacre hidden within a private humiliation Eunice Parchman has guarded all her life. A brilliant rendering of character, motive, and the heady discovery of truth, A Judgement in Stone is among Ruth Rendell's finest psychological thrillers.
"It will be an amazing achievement if [Rendell] ever writes a better book."--London Daily Express
"Ruth Rendell is the best mystery writer in the English-speaking world."--Time
Judgement in Stone was not at all what I was expecting, but turned out to be pretty much everything I could have wanted.
This isn't actually a murder mystery--it's quite clear from the outset that murders have been committed; we even know who committed them. Instead, the story is a puzzle, a little gem of psychological investigation. Rendell's prose is straightforward, almost clinical, as she describes Eunice, a woman who is both pitiable and despicable, predictable yet startlingly surprising in her own way. The story was compelling even though I knew how it would end.
Maybe there are deeper meanings or hidden agendas here; it's been suggested that the book is an indictment of educational systems, or of the rigid class distinctions in England. All I know is that this was a purely good story that I didn't want to stop reading until the end, and that I'll be looking for more of Ruth Rendell's fiction.
I'm reading all of Ms. Rendell's books. This is the best one so far. Her characters are so vivid you feel you know them as your neighbors. The crime is random for the characters but well thought out by the author. She leads us to this crime, baiting us along the way with well informed reasoning. It was an excellent read I could not put down.