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The Vault [Hardcover]

Ruth Rendell
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 13 2011 Inspector Wexford Novels
From “the reigning queen of crime fiction” (Time Out), a sequel to A Sight for Sore Eyes, one of Rendell’s most beloved novels—featuring the retired Inspector Wexford.

In the stunning climax to Rendell’s classic A Sight for Sore Eyes, three bodies—two dead, one living—are entombed in an underground chamber beneath a picturesque London house. Twelve years later, when a manhole cover is pulled back, the house’s new owner makes a grisly discovery. Only now, the number of bodies is four. How did somebody else end up in the chamber? And who knew of its existence?

With their own detectives at an impasse, police call on former Chief Inspector Wexford, now retired and living with his wife in London, to advise them on the unsolved murders. Wexford, missing the thrill of a good case, jumps at the chance to sleuth again. His dogged detective skills and knack for figuring out the criminal mind take him to London neighborhoods, posh and poor, as he follows a complex criminal trail back to the original murders.

But just as Wexford’s case gets hot, a devastating family tragedy pulls Wexford back to Kingsmarkham, and for the first time in his life, Wexford finds himself transforming from investigator into victim. Masterfully plotted, The Vault will satisfy both longtime Wexford fans and new Rendell readers.

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Review

“Easily outshines most of the competition on either side of the Atlantic.”
Publisher’s Weekly

“An undoubted tour de force likely to offer enjoyment both to readers with long memories and to those approaching it as a stand-alone.”
Kirkus Reviews


Praise for Ruth Rendell:
"Ruth Rendell is, unequivocally, the most brilliant mystery novelist of our time. Her stories are a lesson in human nature as capable of the most exotic love as it is of the cruelest murder."
—Patricia Cornwell --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Ruth Rendell has won three Edgar Awards, the highest accolade from Mystery Writers of America, as well as four Gold Daggers and a Diamond Dagger for outstanding contribution to the genre from England’s prestigious Crime Writers’ Association. Her remarkable career has spanned more than fifty years, with more than sixty books published. A member of the House of Lords, she lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Happy buyer Feb. 3 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Loved this book, which is a kind of sequel. You can't really go wrong with Rendell alias Barbara Vine. Arrived in timely fashion and in good shape - exactly as advertised. Also, the price and shipping were very reasonable!!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Late to the Wexford part, but enjoyed it. Nov. 26 2012
By L. J. Roberts TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
First Sentence: A curious world we live in,” said Franklin Merton, “where one can afford a house but not a picture of a house.”

While I loved that Rendell opened the story by providing the history of a house involved in the crime, there was one section which, had her writing been less good, would have made the book a wallbanger for me. However, I quickly moved past that feeling and felt that first chapter was a corker.

Her style struck me as a bit simplistic, in the beginning, but I quickly moved past that as well. I loved all the literary references and Wexford’s comment of how nice it would be to be an fictional detective…”I’m an amateur detective now but I haven’t got Lord Peter’s right of entry into a suspect’s home or a right to question him or her.” I enjoyed the look at his personal life; the relationship with his family at a point of crisis.

I enjoyed the mystery but did feel finding the clues relied a big heavily on coincidence, one of which even the character acknowledged, which was nice. I read a non-Wexford a long time ago and hated it. I’m happy to say, this may have changed my attitude to where I would think of reading another in this series.

THE VAULT (Pol Prod-Inspec. Wexfield (Ret)-England-Contemp) – G+
Rendell, Ruth
Scribner, 2011
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Retired Reg Wexford Still Solves Crimes Sept. 25 2011
By Alison S. Coad TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Ruth Rendell's latest, "The Vault," is a sequel of sorts to 1998's "A Sight for Sore Eyes," but it isn't necessary to have read the latter before enjoying the former. Here, Chief Inspector Wexford has retired at long last, and he and Dora are splitting their time between staying in the London carriage house owned by actress daugher Sheila and their own home in Kingsmarkham, near their social worker daughter Sylvia. Although he has much to fill his time, Wexford finds that he misses police work, and when four bodies are discovered in the semi-concealed coal cellar of a famous house, he is happy to lend his assistance to Detective Superintendent Tom Ede, a rather stuffy but competent policeman. Three of the bodies had apparently been placed in the cellar some 12 years earlier, but the fourth is a more recent addition, not more than two years old, and the question becomes whether the same person killed all four, and who exactly those four were in life. In the meantime, daughter Sylvia is attacked, and finding out what happened there becomes far more important to Wexford, for a time at least.... It's always a treat to read a new Ruth Rendell novel, and it's especially nice to find Wexford back again, after readers had been led to believe that she was finished with writing about him. Having him a retired person now provides Rendell with different angles in which to present his personality and capacities, and I hope she continues with this much-loved character well into the future. The tale itself is not as gripping as some of her novels are, but it nevertheless held my interest and even fooled me at the end! Recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Inspector Wexford walks into retirement Sept. 5 2011
Format:Hardcover
In 2009, the Telegraph newspaper reported that Ruth Rendell didn't want to write any more Inspector Wexford novels after The Monster in the Box. I was worried about reading The Monster in the Box, thinking that if Rendell was tired of Wexford, it might show in the book. But the book was a truly enjoyable wrap-up to the series, with Wexford tackling a case that took him back to his earliest days in the police force, and his mixed-up personal life at that time.

Though Rendell's editor denied the Telegraph report of the end of Wexford, it was still a surprise to hear this year that there would be a new Wexford novel. The Vault finds Wexford retired and splitting his time, with his wife Dora, between their longtime home in Kingsmarkham and the coach house of their actress daughter's upmarket home in London. Retirement is good for Wexford's physical health, as he spends hours a day taking long walks in the city, but he finds himself at loose ends without his detective work. He's relieved when Tom Ede of London's Metropolitan Police, an old acquaintance, asks him to provide consulting assistance in the investigation of four long-dead bodies found down an ancient coal-hole on the grounds of a fine house in quiet St. John's Wood.

The Vault is a sequel of sorts to one of Rendell's non-Wexford suspense novels, A Sight for Sore Eyes. There is no need to have read A Sight for Sore Eyes to follow The Vault, but it adds interest. And added interest is a good thing to have in this case. The Vault is not a bad book, but it lacks sparkle, is sometimes plodding and just not quite up to Rendell's usual standard.

With a couple of exceptions, the various witnesses and suspects are so one-dimensional that it's difficult to keep them straight.
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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  116 reviews
47 of 51 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Inspector Wexford walks into retirement Sept. 26 2011
By Maine Colonial - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In 2009, the Telegraph newspaper reported that Ruth Rendell didn't want to write any more Inspector Wexford novels after The Monster in the Box. I had read and enjoyed all the previous books in the series and I was worried about reading The Monster in the Box, thinking that if Rendell was tired of Wexford, it might show in the book. But the book was a truly enjoyable wrap-up to the series, with Wexford tackling a case that took him back to his earliest days in the police force, and his mixed-up personal life at that time.

Though Rendell's editor denied the Telegraph report of the end of Wexford, it was still a surprise to hear this year that there would be a new Wexford novel. The Vault finds Wexford retired and splitting his time, with his wife Dora, between their longtime home in Kingsmarkham and the coach house of their actress daughter's upmarket home in London. Retirement is good for Wexford's physical health, as he spends hours a day taking long walks in the city, but he finds himself at loose ends without his detective work. He's relieved when Tom Ede of London's Metropolitan Police, an old acquaintance, asks him to provide consulting assistance in the investigation of four long-dead bodies found down an ancient coal-hole on the grounds of a fine house in quiet St. John's Wood.

The Vault is a sequel of sorts to one of Rendell's non-Wexford suspense novels, A Sight for Sore Eyes. There is no need to have read A Sight for Sore Eyes to follow The Vault, but it adds interest. And added interest is a good thing to have in this case. The Vault is not a bad book, but it lacks sparkle, is sometimes plodding and just not quite up to Rendell's usual standard.

With a couple of exceptions, the various witnesses and suspects are so one-dimensional that it's difficult to keep them straight. The secondary story strand, about Wexford and Dora's Kingsmarkham daughter, Sylvia, is somehow lurid and dull at the same time. The editing could use some work too. Yearly dates are given as, for example, twenty-oh-six, two thousand six, and 2006. A long paragraph on the first page of the book is unclear and I needed to re-read it a couple of times to be sure I had it straight. But there were some interesting observations on Wexford's new role as a consulting detective; someone who has no official standing, and how it affects his interactions with interviewees and the police.

I was glad to spend time again with Inspector Wexford and hope to read more in the series. Wexford's unofficial role presents some new possibilities that I hope Rendell will explore. I just hope that next time around, the book is more up to the series' usual standard. If you haven't read any Inspector Wexford books, this isn't the book to start with. That would be the first in the series, From Doon With Death. Alternatively, The Monster In the Box can be read as a standalone.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ended up being one of the better Wexford stories for me Sept. 18 2011
By sb-lynn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Brief summary and review, no spoilers.

Inspector Wexford has (finally) retired and he and his wife Dora are spending some time in London at their daughter Sylvia's second home. But the good inspector doesn't have too much time on his hands when a Detective Superintendent named Tom Ede asks Wexford for some help on a perplexing case.

The case is this - four bodies are found in a coal hole at an expensive home in a nice part of London. Two men and one woman appear to have been placed in that hole many years before, but one of the victims, a young woman, has only been placed there withint the last couple of years. One of the things confusing the detectives is why (and when) a staircase leading to the hole from the house was sealed over yet the only access, a manhole cover outside, remained intact. Also puzzling is the fact that expensive jewelry is found in one of the men's pocket.

Add into the mix are some personal problems between Sylvia and her parents (no surprise there, and a secret of Sylvia's that comes to light with bad repercussions.

I have to admit that the Wexford series is my least favorite of the Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine mysteries. They are usually a real hit or miss to me.

When I first started this story I thought it was going to be a "miss" because I found I couldn't get a rapport going with any of the assorted characters (other than Wexfor and family.) It seemed like a lot of names came from that past and it was a little confusing and I wasn't turning the pages quickly the way I do a normal Ruth Rendell novel. BUT, around a third through the book it really kicked in for me, and it turned out to be one of the better Wexford books for me. There are clues and interesting characters, and I enjoyed the denouement.

Here's the thing you should know - one of my very favorite Ruth Rendell books was A Sight for Sore Eyes. If you enjoyed that book - I encourage you to reread it before you read this. More I don't want to say because of potential spoilers. (And the cover of the book mentions A Sight for Sore Eyes so I don't think mentioning that is a spoiler.)

Recommended, for the reasons mentioned above.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars If that was the word Oct. 4 2011
By Dirk Sinnewe - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have read a good deal of Ruth Rendell's work, including a great number of her Inspector Wexford whodunnits. So far I have always enjoyed reading her books, which is why I was all the more disappointed with this one. Basically, the story of The Vault deals with two issues: the fact that Wexford is now retired and how he is coping with that and secondly there is the murder mystery of who has put four dead bodies over a course of time in a manhole. I won't tell you more about the story, since you still might wish to read it for yourself. There are, however, a number of issues which taken together have spoilt the reading experience for me:

First, there seems to be a major problem with the proof-reading department at Random House, which could explain the numerous typos and some of the more obvious mistakes such as the "...gaudy flyovers that came through the coach house letter box everyday" or the miraculous name change of Burden to Burton. This, however, is not a major problem; after all, famous Virginia Woolf also fiddled around with the names of her characters, sometimes changing them intentionally, sometimes unintentionally.

Second, the reason I so much like the Wexford novels is that Wexford somehow epitomizes an, albeit romanticized, contrast between rural/quaint and modern/metropolitan England. I rather like his old-fashioned attitude, especially when it comes to language use. One of Rendell's frequent phrases that she lets Wexford use is "if that was the word." With these words Rendell probably wants to show that Wexford is critical of what he considers to be a fashionable and sloppy use of language. Thus he is frequently portrayed as slightly out of touch with our modern world. What in most of the Wexford stories seems credible, however, does not work in this one. Let me give you an example: "He passed the car the punter (if that was the word) had just left parked on a double yellow line, passed the white van..." For me this line raises the question as to which retired police officer, even if he's only worked in the countryside (and has never sent an email before), would call a punter a punter and would not be sure about this being the right word for someone who frequents prostitutes? This sort of quaintness seems so contrived; it verges on the ridiculous and thus becomes annoying.

Third, I can see that Wexford may have been designed as a character that develops over the course of time and one must allow for a certain change of character, but having read so many other Wexford whodunnits, I was struck by the following sentence that seemed so much out of character that I was beginning to ask myself whether or not there is still the same author at work. Holding his grown-up daughter Wexford thinks: "Hugging a large damp woman with greasy hair who smells of sweat is not a pleasant experience, even if she is your child" Wexford then reprimands himself for having had this thought, but in the light of Rendell's other novels I still find this a rather odd passage.

Finally, I should mention that there is, after all, one subplot where Rendell really manages to create suspense, but still, if you haven't yet read any of her other books don't begin with this one.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Vault Sept. 14 2011
By Margaret - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Well into her eighties, Rendell shows no decline in her powers although this book is shorter than some of her multicharactered tours de force of later years. But this is a Wexford novel so that's as it should be. Sure, longtime fans will spot some familiar Rendell clues such as an obvious "who"dunit, but not the why for a while so there's plenty to puzzle over. Yes, too, the characters are sometimes a bit underdrawn or neglected (Sheila and Dora, for instance), but that is a minor quibble. Rendell's charm has always been that she creates a world we can lose ourselves in, while also writing more or less successful detective fiction or psychological suspense and mystery.

What I noticed in THE VAULT especially was an elegaic quality even more so than Rendell's always nostalgia for a vanished countryside, a buried London and its villages. When she writes about Dick Whittington turning on the hill to see a last glimpse of London's streets paved with gold, I wonder if Rendell herself is saying goodbye to that rich past and to her own in the persona of Wexford as he visits and ponders the remains of lost and buried landmarks and even more so, the utterly vanished men and women who made them memorable.

But Rendell has written of these things before so perhaps I'm projecting. Still, there is something poignant in the calling back to memory (Wexford's), twice, of the children's Dick Whittington rhyme and game (surely now never played)...

Of course there is also much that is fresh and funny and insightful, just as Rendell has always been. If this is her last book, I think I will turn, like Dick Whittington on his hill, to look back at her long career in gratitude for all those pages paved with so much gold.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much repetition Sept. 16 2011
By Target Lover - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I have been a fan of Ruth Rendell's mysteries for many years, especially the Inspector Wexford series, so I was very excited to receive this book and to revisit some favorite characters. However, I am only about 30 pages into the book and the repetition of not only plot, but actual phrases and actions is getting on my nerves.

Some examples:

1) The book opens with an intriging history of a house. Why then does that same history have to be repeated in chapter three;

2) On pages 9-10 she describes the coach house in which the Wexfords are now living as a "kind of garage for a brougham" and having "a stable for the horse". She also mentions that it has two bedrooms and two baths. So, why on page 19 does she have to inform us again that the ground floor was "where a Victorian family's brougham had been once housed and the horse stabled. Stairs went up to the two bedrooms and two bathrooms." Is she describing this house or trying to sell it?;

3) Finally, on page 26 she mentions one of the characters as putting on a "red-and-blue striped tie, somewhat worse for rough handling" before entering the house. The tie is mentioned again on page 31, "Tom fished a rather shabby tie, red and blue stripes, out of his pocket." This would not have been so bothersome had it read something like "once again, Tom fished the red and blue tie out of his pocket"---to show the reader she knows that we already have been introduced to the tie and his habit of putting it on before meeting with interviewees.

I really want to read and enjoy this novel. Unfortunately, if this type of repetition continues, I don't think I will be able to. Obviously, my real complaint is not with Ms. Rendell, but with the editor/publisher. Doesn't someone of Ms. Rendell's stature and reputation deserve better than this?
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