Sometime after high school, I got out of the habit of reading short stories. I don’t know why because I used to like them very much, but in the last 20 years it has rarely occurred to me to pick up a collection of short stories. But I am a huge fan of Ruth Rendell, so when I saw this collection at the library on audio, it seemed natural to pick it up, especially when I saw that the title story is about a self-appointed editor who “has spent years pointing out mistakes to writers and their publishers.” Irresistible.
The opening story is excellent, probably my favorite in the collection. Ambrose Ribbon’s obsession with others’ mistakes is just one aspect of his character, and I enjoyed watching the dark portrait that Rendell paints take shape. Rendell is great at labyrinthine plots and characters with secret obsessions and habits, and her talents are put to good use here.
The final story, “High Mysterious Union,” was probably my second favorite. This story features a remote village of people who seem not quite normal and the two outsiders who attempt to live among them. Very creepy. I also liked “The Astronomical Scarf,” which traced the travels of a scarf from one person to another. It had a few dark moments, but I mostly appreciated the cleverness of the device. “The Wink” was also pretty good, but I have to admit that I forgot all about it until I looked at the list of stories. Clearly, it didn’t make much of an impact.
The other stories didn’t impress me as much. Most were too short to draw me in. I don’t know if it was the audio format or the fact that I listen in the car and sometimes reached my destination before finishing a story that really would have benefited from being taken in all at once. I also wonder if the short format doesn’t serve Rendell’s talent as well as the full-length novel does. It’s telling that my two favorites were long enough to be classified as novellas. I don’t know if I’m just not a short story reader, or if the short story isn’t Rendell’s best medium. I’m not going to give up on short stories, but I’m sticking to Rendell’s long fiction.