The Rottweiler

Sorry not to have updated for a few days. I’m in the middle of two thick books – one on Arctic exploration, one on the life of Beatrix Potter – and I was waiting to finish one or the other before I wrote anything. Instead, I think I’ll try to keep things fresh on a more regular basis, and perhaps do some retroactive reviews from my past lists as I read through some of my heftier works.


In the mean time, I’ll start with one I finished about a week ago: The Rottweiler, by Ruth Rendell. I was eager to start this one after enjoying The Killing Doll so much, and indeed, this was excellent: well-written, tense, not a whodunit but a whydunit, and a masterful intersection of interesting, realistic characters, bouncing off one another as people do, until this particular group’s chance encounters create the explosive finish.


The Rottweiler tells the story of a serial murderer of women (aren’t they all? Or at least mostly) who lives a quiet, elegant existence in a London flat and asks himself the question: why do I do it? What compels someone like me to kill? Meanwhile, his housemates live their own lives, and come closer and closer to the murderer’s truth. The story is a cautionary tale about our own unrecognized isolation, varying in degree but not in substance.


One thing I notice about Rendell’s books – and this is not a flaw, this is just an observation – is that her books are so acutely observed that there comes a point where I want to put the book down and walk away. I can’t bear the tension, or the pity for the victim; I squirm. I think that’s why I put down The Killing Doll earlier, and only came back to it after about a month of other things, and I was tempted to do the same with The Rottweiler. I’m glad I pushed through my discomfort, but Rendell is not an author whose books I could read one after another, like eating potato chips. They require too much investment for that. Potboilers they are not, despite her prolific output. More to be enjoyed one at a time, with a breather in between. Anyone have any recommendations for which of hers I should tackle next?

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1 Response to The Rottweiler

  1. Teresa says:

    Hi Jenny,

    Like you, I tend to enjoy Ruth Rendell’s books more when she writes as Barbara Vine, but I went through a bit of a Rendell marathon this past spring during which I read The Rottweiler and thoroughly enjoyed it. I liked The Water’s Lovely almost as much as I did The Rottweiler. 13 Steps Down was pretty good; it seemed sadder than some of Rendell’s books. Adam and Eve and Pinch Me was really intense, but it took a while to get going.

    I’ve just about come to the conclusion that I like Rendell as herself just as much as I do Rendell as Barbara Vine, with the exception of the Inspector Wexford books. The Wexford books aren’t bad, but they often feel a bit “tricksy” to me–more puzzle and less psychology. I never feel compelled to take them home when I happen upon them at the library. Barbara Vine books are harder to resist (although for some reason I’ve been resisting the copy of The Minotaur that’s been sitting on my shelf–now I’m feeling inspired to tackle that soon).

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