Fans of mystery novels will know Ruth Rendell. She has won every top mystery writers award in the UK and the U.S. for her nearly two dozen stories featuring the gentlemanly Inspector Wexford and many more written under a different name.
'Portebello' is not a murder mystery, but there’s no shortage of mystery, suspense and intrigue as a set of consequences are set into motion from a single event — someone finds an envelope on the ground filled with cash.
The setting is Portobello, a winding road in the Notting Hill area of London that is home to notable street fair, thriving with weekend crowds in search of furniture, clothes, hardware, music, foods, and antiques and much more. Wikipedia calls it the largest market for antiques in the UK.
Rendell always tells her unique tales in literary fashion, and her characters are so well drawn they become immediately believable. There is Eugene, an attractive 50-year-old art dealer in Portobello Road with an unusual addiction; Ella, his physician fiancée; Lance, an indolent minor criminal who gives his time to planning his next unlawful venture (with the goal of getting his ex-girlfriend back), and his sanctimonius Uncle Gib, a reformed criminal who has mended his ways become leader of a conservative church, giving him constant opportunity to chastise the immoral behavior of others. Lance, broke and “on the dole”, is forced to live in Uncle Gib’s house, which neither of them like. Joel, a strange young man with mental problems, who prefers to live his life in near darkness, is, like the others, consumed by secret areas of his life.
Rendell weaves a wonderful tale of disparate people who become enmeshed in what Stephen King on the book jacket calls “malignant coincidence.” Discovering the psychological depths into which her characters sink, and finding out whether some of them survive, is indeed intriguing. A great summer read that is hard to put down!
Author Rendell is a member of the House of Lords and lives in London.