Friday, January 14, 2011
Forgotten Book Friday: A Fatal Inversion
To rectify this dereliction of literary duty, Miss Lemon offers her readers another Forgotten Book Friday selection: A Fatal Inversion (1987), by Ruth Rendell, writing as Barbara Vine.
While laying to rest their spaniel, the most recent owners of Wyvis Hall in Nunes, Suffolk, unearth a dark secret, the relics of ten years past when a group of men and women barely past their teens had the ill-founded idea to start a commune. They called it 'Ecalpemos.' And there's your 'fatal inversion.'
Flash forward ten years and the keepers of this secret -- Adam Verne-Smith, Rufus Fletcher and Shiva Manjusri -- each in his own way relives the past and begins to panic as he pieces together the clues the police might find that will implicate him in what should have been a long-forgotten crime.
Though she offers several incisive psychological portrayals, A Fatal Inversion is not Ms. Rendell's best work. Perhaps it's the multiple points of view interspersed with countless flashbacks to 1976 that make this narrative sag at times. Even so, there are many things Miss Lemon found to like about the novel, such as the 'secret drink' that Rufus always keeps hidden behind a curtain hem, a habit that never changes from his days at Ecalpemos to his successful practice on Wimpole Street and the sign of a true alcoholic.
Readers also learn the shocking reason why Adam is so neurotically anxious about the welfare of his infant daughter, Abigail. The reason Ms. Rendell puts forward is as brilliant as it is sinister.