Friday, August 27, 2010
The Copper Peacock and Other Stories
Yes. She knows just how much you love them.
This one, The Copper Peacock, by Ruth Rendell, is no more worthy of being forgotten then the other books Miss Lemon has singled out for remembrance. The work is a collection of short stories first published, collectively one assumes, in 1991.
The tales herein -- though none more than thirty pages in length -- carry all the macabre landscapes, psychological aberrations and calamitous fates that signal classic Ruth Rendell.
The book opens with "A Pair of Yellow Lilies,' remarkable both for its irony and surprise. Ms. Rendell's canny knack for realism is fully on display here, too. If the reader's stomach doesn't lurch when unlucky Bridget Thomas turns to discover her bag with all the money she has to her name gone from her library carrel, then that reader must be insensitive.
"Mother's Help" is unforgettable for the sheer malevolence of its main character, Ivan. "Long Live the Queen," and "The Fish-Sitter" both capture that creepy and uncomfortable aura generated by people who connect too closely with their pets.
The title story, "The Copper Peacock," doesn't appear until two-thirds of the way through the book. Though Miss Lemon promises that it will make one rethink rejecting out of hand that next tasteless gift one receives from a coworker.
The last story of the lot, "An Unwanted Woman" features Ms. Rendell's now familiar Chief Inspector Wexford.
All of these stories, in varying degrees, show just how inventive, versatile and, yes, even wicked, is the mind of Ruth Rendell. Pick up a copy of The Copper Peacock if you can.