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.