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Simisola: Chief Inspector Wexford Mystery Unbound – Mar 17 1997


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Product Details

  • Unbound: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Seal Books (March 17 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0770427146
  • ISBN-13: 978-0770427146
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 10.7 x 2.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 159 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,522,698 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

The latest Chief Inspector Wexford mystery, in which a small town's racism turns deadly.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition.

From Booklist

You might think we were dealing with Prime Suspect IV. In racist, high-unemployment Britain, a young, middle-class black woman goes missing, and the last person she seems to have spoken to--an unemployment officer--is found murdered in bed. Unfortunately, the struggle between social commentary and whodunit is so equal--think of two wrestlers, each unable to throw the other--that one soon tires of the sport. What went wrong? Rendell is the finest of the finest, an author who, like le Carre{‚}, often soars above her genre as if using it only to ground her craft. Is the problem the too-conventional nature of her Wexford series, or the too-conventional targets of her social criticism? In fact, the chief target of the author's criticism is an English law that permits wealthy immigrants to bring into the country servants who are part of their household but who are not legitimate immigrants in their own right--that is, who must stay with their "masters" if they are not to be deported. That these servants are often treated like slaves has not, so far, persuaded the Conservative government to change the law, and this is the source of Chief Inspector Wexford's (and Rendell's) quiet disgust. "We're all racists," the gentle Wexford says in the early pages, and the novel goes on to prove him right. But all this, of course, is a contrivance, and the story suffers under the burden; it has little force, momentum, or focus. True, Rendell firing on only three cylinders is more impressive than many firing on all four, but this is still a disappointment. Stuart Whitwell --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews

Format: Hardcover
Winner of three Edgars and four Gold Daggers, Rendell is a master of tightly constructed plots, characters under pressure and heightened atmosphere.
Simisola, her 16th Inspector Wexford mystery, set in the fairly small town of Kingsmarkham, England, opens with Wexford's new doctor -an African immigrant - beseeching the chief inspector for help finding his daughter, Melanie, last seen at the unemployment center. Melanie's home life is strict and Wexford assumes she's shaking off the yoke until the claims adviser who helped Melanie at the job center is found murdered.
Meanwhile Wexford's whiny daughter Sylvia and ill-matched husband are both jobless and going on the dole. Wexford, fretted by guilt at his impatience towards his daughter, and knowing that he would not be making daily visits to Melanie's parents if they were not black, muses over social attitudes, ingrained prejudice and motives for murder until the body of a young black woman is discovered.
There are few blacks in Kingsmarkham and despite several small clues to the contrary, Wexford assumes it's Melanie. After a night of grief, the family arrives at the mortuary only to find a stranger.
Wexford, mortified, approaches the three-part investigation with new insight - re-examining every assumption, taking note of every tiny discrepancy.
Kingsmarkham is large enough to encompass slums, council flats and elaborate estates, allowing Rendell to involve a wealthy and flashy female politician, a surgeon and his lackadaisically privileged children, a petty thief, an adulterous businessman, unemployed youth and a hidden black underclass in a story that unwinds in dark twists and turns of grubby secrets.
Although the explosive ending may seem unrealistically grotesque to some, it's still vintage Rendell - suspenseful and wholly absorbing.
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By A Customer on Aug. 22 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As has been pointed out by other reviewers, Ruth Rendell's "Simisola" combines the whodunit with a discussion of social issues. Even though the plot of the former is slightly overworked - an impressive construction, lacking somewhat in credibility - the connection is realistic and effective. Wexford's rather endearing, if unsuccessful attempts at "colourblindness", add neat twists and turns in his (more successful) attempts at solving the criminal problem. Blacks are, for example, not the only group suffering from the effects of prejudice here.
Even though a radical might criticize Rendell for mainly (but not exclusively) dealing with how whites do and should perceive blacks, Wexford's progress should be of interest to members of any race. And if non-British readers believe that the specific form of social evil at the heart of the story is limited to Britain, well, better take a closer look at your own society...
Again, the plot is overworked. Not that the mystery is all that complicated or fantastic, but the number of cleverly misleading clues, likely suspects, and distracting detours is rather too much for me. Clever but slightly artificial. Still, a favourite with me.
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By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on Aug. 23 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Mystery novels are not a particular interest of mine, so i was surprised when someone virtually thrust this book into my hand. Having watched some of this series on the Goggle Box, i was only mildly interested in starting SIMISOLA. What a pleasant experience this book proved to be. The characters are superbly drawn, Wexford particularly so, but the Akande family was portrayed exquisitely. A sympathetic view into another culture is always welcome, since we ofays rarely have a proper glimpse into other worlds. This book strongly reflects the issues facing the UK's race relations today, the Stephen Lawrence murder case being a vivid example. Wexford's self confrontations are the highlights of this book. One hopes it's not a racist comment to request that someone from the Black community read and comment on this book for its accuracy.
This book, having led me to other Rendall works, led me to wonder just what the story behind its writing might be. SIMISOLA is so far superior to any of the other works i read that i can't help question who might have co-authored it. Rendall has a high reputation, which i can't judge having so little experience with the genre. No matter, this is an outstanding read and a fine addition to any bookshelf. The mystery is almost a minor matter set against some stunning revelations about race relations anywhere in the English speaking world. Buy, read and reflect on this book.
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By A Customer on July 24 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As a tireless fan of Ruth Rendell who is continually surprised by her ability to juxtapose the traditional British police procedural framework with sharply discerning social criticism, I think Simisola bests even her usually high standard. Rendell has a gift for fleshing out a character in a single line that no other mystery writer (save PD James) can equal, but her writing evinces a nonjudgmental compassion for humanity that is truly unique. While some readers might fault her treatment of race here as mawkish or self-conscious, I think it mirrors the realization that Inspector Wexford continually forces himself to confront -- that we are all complicit in racism. I also applaud her for writing about race in this single book from so many different and nuanced perspectives. This is not simply a book about black v. white but rather a book about the multiple gradations of class and ethnicity that intersect so confoundingly with race -- and this from a woman who has been writing mysteries since 1963! Finally, at a completely visceral level, I was stunned by the last line of the book, which I thought pulled together all that had gone before with the skill of a well-realized musical cadence. I must say that I'm shocked to read comments that people found it difficult to persevere to the end. I've only found one other Rendell novel tough going (The Best Man to Die, and I've sometimes wondered whether it was ghost-written by an inferior writer), but Simisola was absolutely gripping.
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