Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Vault

In The Vault, Ruth Rendell introduces her longtime readers to a new world – one in which her beloved Inspector Wexford no longer has a policeman’s badge to flash.  Wexford, now officially retired, wants to experience the things his long career left him so little time to explore.  To that end, he and his wife are living on a London property belonging to their daughter, Sheila, from which Wexford plans to explore methodically all the London landmarks he has mostly only read about.

During one of his long walks on the London streets, Wexford, who already misses his connection to the police, happens upon Detective Superintendent Tom Ede.  The two had worked together for a short time when Ede was a young man, and Ede is still a bit in awe of Wexford’s crime-solving skills.  Based on his brief experience with Wexford, and involved in a bizarre murder investigation that is going nowhere, Ede is rather eager to hire Wexford as his personal adviser on the case.  Wexford, it turns out, is just as eager to accept the offer – despite there being no salary attached to the job.

Thus begins Wexford’s efforts to identify the four bodies found in an old coal cellar that can only be accessed via a manhole cover located smack in the middle of the driveway of a fashionable London home.  Wexford, despite his lack of authority and the waning support of D.S. Ede, doggedly moves from interview to interview even as the case begins to make less and less sense to him. 

The Vault reads like a traditional police procedural but, as Wexford eliminates one false lead after the other, the cast of suspects begins to blend together.  The investigation, as such, does not make for compelling reading because much of what Wexford learns about the crime is based on chance or leaps of faith that somehow connect odd clues together.  More interesting, to me at least, is the side plot involving his Kingsmarkham daughter, Sylvia, and her love affair gone bad.  Wexford reacts to this threat to his daughter’s safety as any parent would, and finds himself spending as much time in Kingsmarkham as he does in London.

The Vault will particularly appeal to Wexford fans wanting to see how the man eases his way into retirement, but it is probably not the best place to be introduced either to Rendell or to Wexford.  It should also be noted that The Vault is a sequel (of sorts) to A Sight for Sore Eyes but that it works equally well as a standalone Wexford mystery.

Rated at: 3.5

(Review Copy provided by Publisher)

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