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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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4.0 out of 5 stars Good Stories - Great Reader Jan. 21 2004
Format:Audio Cassette
The stories are good, mysterious. Add to that the outstanding talents of Jenny Sterlin and you have 4 hours of good times ahead.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A fairly average bunch of stories. Dec 16 2002
By Wayne
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 collection is a bit uneven.
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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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3.0 out of 5 stars No comparison to "The Fallen Curtain" Aug. 28 2001
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? Try a title other than this one. The title story is plodding (versus the "plotting" I was hoping for) with no surprises to make the ending worth waiting for. Another story, "High Mysterious Union", is similarly longer than the actual story warrants. No twists, no surprises. Methinks she might have been focusing on character development at the expense of a good read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Book for a Rainy Day May 20 2001
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. You just knew he would come to a bad end with his obsession for perfection. I couldn't feel sorry for him. He drove himself over the edge.
Another reviewer mentioned she wondered if the author was getting back at readers who send her criticisms? That could be.
I like this author's way of ending her stories. Usually they are a surprise and I like that. I gave this only four stars as I am having trouble with the last story.
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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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