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Piranha to Scurfy and Other Stories [Paperback]

Ruth Rendell
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book by Rendell, Ruth

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Stories rate from entertaining to outstanding March 10 2002
Ruth Rendell is one of my favorite contemporary writers, and I was not disappointed by this collection. The three I most enjoyed were the title story, The Professionals and High Mysterious Union. What sets Rendell apart from most suspense writers is the originality of her characters. She has a knack for creating highly ambiguous personalities with unexpected (and often amusing) eccentricities. Ambrose Ribbon, of Piranha To Scurfy, is such a character. An intellectual elitist and loner, he writes scathing letters to popular authors, pointing out trivial errors in their works. The way he gradually comes undone reminded me of Poe's The Telltale Heart.
The final story, High Mysterious Union, is set in a wonderfully
eerie atmosphere. Although we've all read stories or seen films about sinister rustic villages, no one can do this better than Rendell, and this story has an unusual twist (the villagers aren't devil worshippers looking for sacrificial victims, as I first suspected).

All in all, a brilliant collection of stories. If you're not already a Ruth Rendell fan, this will probably make you want to read some of her novels.
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By A. Ross
Never having read Rendell, who is widely thought of as being amongst the best contemporary crime writers, I figured this new collection might be the place to start. I was rather disappointed to find that the six short stories and two much longer novellas are character studies that are more intent on evoking mood than delivering an interesting plot or story. The short stories are particularly weak, with the possible exception of "The Professional," This latter story tells of a shoeshine boy who witnesses a murder and stays quiet, rather than rock the boat and risk his job. It's a little more interesting than the others if only for the class issues it touches upon. "The Wink" and "Walter's Leg" both revisit ancient crimes and bestow predictable, if long overdue, justice. "Catamount" is a simple story of a woman and mountain lion, entirely unremarkable and reading like a writing exercise. "The Beach Butler" is a perfectly awful story about a single woman without much money on vacation, and the dusky local she falls for. "The Astronomical Scarf" follows a scarf through the hands of various owners over the years (much like E. Annie Proulx's novel Accordion Crimes), and paints quick sketches of each. Rendell's icily detached narrative voice runs throughout the stories, making them even less interesting.
The title story is a long and predictable authorial revenge-fantasy that veers off into supernatural horror. Mostly consisting of an extended character study, it follows a cliché of a maternally dominated middle-aged pedant whose madness consumes him. Living alone since his mother's death (he killed her, duh!), he spends his days reading books and writing letters to their authors and publishers pointing out mistakes.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Something for everyone May 10 2001
It's been a long time since Ruth Rendell published a book of short stories, but _Piranha to Scurfy_ is worth the wait. There is plenty to like here; although the nine stories (including the novellas "High Mysterious Union," and "Piranha to Scurfy") have their high and low points, overall they make an interesting and entertaining addition to Rendell's work.
I should say at the beginning that I do not believe, as some seem to do, that Ruth Rendell's work is in any way in decline. Though _The Chimney Sweeper's Boy_ and _Harm Done_ will never rank among my favorite Rendell novels, I don't believe that they are on any different literary level from her books of five or ten years ago, and I freely admit to preferring her most recent work to earlier books like _One Across, Two Down_. I think Rendell's prolificacy leaves her books susceptible to uneven quality. Additionally, her affinity for writing and plotting in several different styles means that many readers will not like all of her books.
The title story, called "Piranha to Scurfy" in the Rendellian tradition of the initially incomprehensible title, is a claustrophobic story of paranoia and obsessive compulsion that reminded me initially of earlier Rendell books like _The Bridesmaid_ and _Talking to Strange Men_ but an important difference soon became apparent; there is a surprisingly funny side to "Piranha to Scurfy." The protagonist is so unattractive, so irritating, that it is nearly impossible for the reader to feel empathy for him.
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3.0 out of 5 stars actually 3 1/2 stars is more accurate April 10 2001
By A Customer
Certainly better than her last two The Chimney Sweepers Boy and The Grasshopper, two very disappointing books from the grand master of suspense. I agree with the previous reviewer who said Rendell has not been as good as her early/middle masterpieces, please read those!! This one had a good novella, High Mysterious Union, that truly a page turner, and Catamount was excellent in its eeriness of atmosphere, and a punchy ending, but The Wink was horrible, (and very unsatisfying in the revenge department, to say the least) as was Walters Leg, ditto. the first story was good in some places, but I agree with the previous reviewer again, I thought it would move beyond the tyranical mother/abused son motif to show a writer taking revenge on a reader with either or both being a little off the wall, as in all the best Rendell stories, and with a lot more plot twists involved. I felt this story kind of limped along for many more pages than it needed to. But all things considered it's not a bad volume of her stories and The Professional is very good, as is The Exchange. So its a mixed bag, but worth reading certainly.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Stories - Great Reader
The stories are good, mysterious. Add to that the outstanding talents of Jenny Sterlin and you have 4 hours of good times ahead.
Published on Jan. 21 2004 by Michael D. Blatt
3.0 out of 5 stars A fairly average bunch of stories.
The stories range from being chilling and disturbing to being a bit on the dull side. It is still worth reading as some of the stories are very good but overall I think the... Read more
Published on Dec 16 2002 by Wayne
3.0 out of 5 stars No comparison to "The Fallen Curtain"
Ouch! This is a major disappointment compared to her earlier collection, "The Fallen Curtain". Want mystery and suspense, or even a little slightly interesting reading? Read more
Published on Aug. 28 2001 by S. L. Smith
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Book for a Rainy Day
I went to the library for a couple of books on a rainy morning. "Piranha to Scurfy" was just what I needed! Liked the first story best. Read more
Published on May 20 2001 by A reader
2.0 out of 5 stars obscurity
Though I remain one of her legion of fans, with each successive published work, I find myself asking "Why"? Read more
Published on April 2 2001 by JACK C. BROWN
1.0 out of 5 stars Predictable to Silly
Ruth Rendell is one of my favorite mystery writers, so my disappointment in this collection of stories was all the keener. Read more
Published on March 29 2001 by Maria-Therese Vasquez
5.0 out of 5 stars Rendell at her best
In her latest collection of sories, Ruth Rendell explores again some of the invisible traits in our nature. Read more
Published on March 5 2001 by Emilia Palaveeva
5.0 out of 5 stars Rendell's short stories also carry a punch!
Ruth Rendell is better known for her novels, especially her Inspector Wexford series, but in "Piranha to Scurfy" she produces a volume of short stories that do her... Read more
Published on Feb. 9 2001 by Billy J. Hobbs
5.0 out of 5 stars From Peaceful to Scary!
A hum-dinger of a book. Good, solid, tight writing with no fat. I could not put this one down. From the first story, 'From Piranha to Scurfy,' ( a reference to a volume of the... Read more
Published on Jan. 28 2001 by Eustacia Vye
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