My review of Ruth Rendell's No Man's Nightingale first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers. It is appearing here with their permission. If you don't already receive Shelf and you're relatively new to the blog, you can get the bi-weekly e-newsletter for free. There is a widget to sign up at the very bottom of the blog. Every so often I feel like I should mention that for any newbies we have showing up. Welcome by the way! :-)
First line: "Maxine was proud of having three jobs."
Retired Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford returns in the 24th book of Ruth Rendell’s series. Despite being no longer employed with the police, Wexford’s former deputy, now chief inspector, Mike Burden, requests his input on the strangulation murder of Sarah Hussein, the vicar of Kingsmarkham.
Hussein—not only a female priest but a bi-racial, single mother—has no shortage of detractors for any one of those characteristics, so a hate crime becomes the natural conclusion. However, as Wexford continues to investigate, Hussein’s past and her daughter’s paternity spark possible alternatives to the hate crime theory.
Meanwhile, a somewhat unrelated plot line brings angst to Wexford in the form of his house cleaner. Much to his chagrin, Maxine Sams loves to talk, and while bragging about her son, she unknowingly imparts details of a crime to Wexford. He’s left with no alternative but to report it.
While No Man’s Nightingale revolves around the mystery of Sarah Hussein’s murder, the novel’s focus centers more on Wexford’s acclimation to his new stage in life. He’s cognizant of the differences in his interactions with people connected to the investigation; he’s aware of his relationships with his wife and family and how retirement affects those relationships. Rendell depicts Wexford’s challenging transition with humanity and aplomb. Whether a long-time Wexford fan or a new reader, identifying with his experiences occurs instinctively.
The pace of No Man’s Nightingale mimics Wexford’s stage in life and the minor storylines cause the main plot to be looser, but those who appreciate multi-layered puzzles and complex characters are sure to enjoy Rendell’s.
No Man's Nightingale is available in hardcover (ISBN: 9781476744483) from Scribner. It's also available as an unabridged audiobook (ISBN: 9781471343957), narrated by Nigel Anthony.