When I first began to write grown-up fiction, I went to evening classes in creative writing. My teacher was a glowing fan of Ruth Rendell’s crime stories. Soon, I was addicted to them too, especially the darker thrillers that Ms Rendell wrote using the name Barbara Vine.
Although The Tree of Hands was published under Ms Rendell’s own name, it sits firmly within the genre of dark psychological thrillers. Cosy Inspector Wexford is nowhere to be seen. Instead, we are introduced to Benet, who has written a blockbuster and lives comfortably in Hampstead as the single mother of a toddler. Adulthood has brought about an uneasy truce with Benet’s mother Mopsa, victim to a mental illness that produces sudden episodes of psychosis. Visiting from Spain, Mopsa at last appears to be cured – until, driving through a rather less salubrious area of London, she steals an abandoned child.
I hesitate to say much more because I want you to enjoy all the surprises on offer in The Tree of Hands for yourself! Suffice to say, the aftermath of the crime throws a spotlight on love, loss and nastier aspects of human relationships. Ms Rendell understood too well how rumour and paranoia could turn a whole community against an individual. The tale is also told through an excellent cast of supporting characters: a young carpenter impossibly starry-eyed about his feckless lover, a neurotic conman, a gangster, a kindly doctor.
As always with Ruth Rendell’s work, although the characters may be hard to love, they’re written sympathetically. The reader has access to Benet’s innermost thoughts, as well as gaining insight into other individuals we might not want as neighbours…
Following her sad death a few months ago, Ms Rendell will be sorely missed. If you haven’t read The Tree of Hands, do track it down!
I also write psychological crime thrillers laced with twists and suspense. If you like Ruth Rendell’s style, I bet you’ll love my latest crime thriller, The Bride’s Trail, too! Take a look at the reviews and peek inside the book on Amazon.