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Piranha to Scurfy: And Other Storiesby Ruth Rendell
Synopses & Reviews
It was the first time he had been away on holiday without Mummy. The first time in his life. They had always gone to the Isle of Wight, to Ventnor or Totland Bay, so, going alone, he had chosen Cornwall for the change that people say is as good as a rest. Not that Ribbon's week in Cornwall had been entirely leisure. He had taken four books with him, read them carefully in the B and B's lounge, in his bedroom, on the beach, and sitting on the clifftop, and made meticulous notes in the looseleaf notebook he had bought in a shop in Newquay. The results had been satisfactory, more than satisfactory. Allowing for the anger and disgust making these discoveries invariably aroused, he felt he could say he had had a relaxing time. To use a horrible phrase much favored by Eric Owlberg in his literary output, he had recharged his batteries.
Coming home to an empty house would be an ordeal. He had known it would be, and it was. Instead of going out into the garden, he gave it careful scrutiny from the dining room window. Everything outside and indoors was as he had left it. The house was as he had left it, all the books in their places. Every room contained books. Ribbon was not one to make jokes, but he considered it witty to remark that while other people's walls were papered, his were booked. No one knew what he meant, for hardly anyone except himself ever entered 21 Grove Green Avenue, Leytonstone, and those to whom he uttered his little joke smiled uneasily. He had put up the shelves himself, buying them from Ikea. As they filled he bought more, adding to those already there until the shelves extended from floor to ceiling. A strange appearance was given to the house by this superfluity of books, as the shelves necessarily reduced the size of the rooms, so that the living room, originally fifteen feet by twelve, shrank to thirteen feet by ten. The hall and landing were "booked" as densely as the rooms. The place looked like a library, but one mysteriously divided into small sections. His windows appeared as alcoves set deep in the walls, affording a view at the front of the house of a rather gloomy suburban street, thickly treed. The back gave onto the yellow-brick rears of other houses and, in the foreground, his garden, which was mostly lawn, dotted about with various drab shrubs. At the far end was a wide flower bed the sun never reached and in which grew creeping ivies and dark-leaved flowerless plants that like the shade.
He had got over expecting Mummy to come downstairs or walk into a room. She had been gone four months now. He sighed, for he was a long way from recovering from his loss and his regrets. Work was in some ways easier without her and in others immeasurably harder. She had reassured him; sometimes she had made him strong. But he had to press on--there was really no choice. Tomorrow things would be back to normal.
He began by ranging before him on the desk in the study--though was not the whole house a study?--the book-review pages from the newspapers that had arrived while he was away. As he had expected, Owlberg's latest novel, Paving Hell, appeared this very day in paperback, one year after hardcover publication. It was priced at ?6.99 and by now would be in all the shops. Ribbon made a memo about it on one of the plain cards he kept for this purpose. But before continuing he let his eyes rest on the portrait of Mummy in the plain silver frame that stood on
A lonely man spends his time writing scathingly critical letters to newly published authors in memory of his mother, buried in his garden, in the title story in a collection of short fiction that also includes "The Wink" about a woman who waits a lifetime for revenge, "Catamount," and "High Mysterious Union," a gripping tale of obsession and violence. Reprint. 17,500 first printing.
Nine deliciously frightening and exquisitely crafted tales of psychological terror from Ruth Rendell.
A self-appointed critic reads books only to catch out their errors of fact and usage, which he points out to their authors in vicious letters: Then one day he comes upon a book that attacks him. An elderly woman finally avenges herself on the man who raped her sixty years before. An idyllic village in the English countryside offers newcomers its own peculiar kind of hospitality and exacts a terrible price on those who reject it. Delivering high-voltage shocks with the elegance of a Henry James, Piranha to Scurfy is further evidence of Ruth Rendell’s mastery of any form she puts her hand to.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
About the Author
RUTH RENDELL has won three Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America and one Diamond Dagger, three Gold Daggers, and one Silver Dagger from the Crime Writers Association of England. She lives in London.
From the Hardcover edition.
Table of Contents
Piranha to scurfy — Fair exchange — The wink — Catamount — Walter's leg — The professional — The beach butler — The astronomical scarf — High mysterious union.
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