Thirteen Steps Down

13-stepsAfter a short Christmas hiatus (during which I visited family, enjoyed some time off from shoveling snow, and got several wonderful books I can’t wait to read and review!), I was delighted by Thirteen Steps Down, a novel of suspense and obsession by Ruth Rendell. (By the way, have any of you ever figured out exactly what to call her books? They’re not exactly thrillers, or mysteries; only some of them are crime novels… I never know quite what to say.) 

Mix Cellini is obsessed with two things: the supermodel Nerissa Nash, and the serial killer Reggie Christie. He knows everything about them both, even to the point of choosing a house to live in that’s just around the corner from the home of one of Christie’s victims. He’s determined to get into Nerissa’s life, and to make his admiration for Christie known. Nerissa, who is seeing an astrologer, knows that a man will influence her fate, but she doesn’t know how. Gwendolyn Chawcer, the elderly, untidy, bookaholic owner of the house Mix Cellini is living in, visited Reggie Christie’s home as a teenager…

This is classic Ruth Rendell, and I mean that in a very good way. The suspense is lively, the characters are well-drawn, the dialogue is wonderful, and there’s an element that’s to be found in a number of her books: the ambiguity of the occult. Is there a ghost in Gwendolyn’s house or isn’t there? Can the astrologer cast a spell or can’t she? Not every question is tied up in a neat little bow. Each of the main characters has a dream life — Gwendolyn has her books, and the past; Cellini has his fantasies; Nerissa has her crush on a neighbor boy — and these dreams lead them astray. Whether they ever get back to reality depends on their desire to do so. It’s a wonderfully complex and satisfying book, as Rendell tends to write them. Highly recommended for relaxing with through the holiday season!

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3 Responses to Thirteen Steps Down

  1. Katherine says:

    This was one of my favorite Ruth Rendell’s, though I’ve only read a few. As far as classification, her books under this name are easily crime, I think. But it’s when you get to her books under the name Barbara Vine that you run into hot water with regards to classification. Crime? Suspense? Horror? I never know there.

  2. adevotedreader says:

    I confess I’ve been remiss and not read any Rendell yet. I must change that in the new year, maybe with this as it sounds intriguing.

  3. Teresa says:

    This is a good one–I’m finding that I like her non-Vine books more and more (although I could still take or leave the Wexfords). I usually refer to her books as mystery/thrillers, but they’re really sort of modern-day gothics, aren’t they? They so often involve secrets from the past, twisted relationships, dark obsessions, and whispers of the occult.

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