Piranha To Scurfy And Other Stories

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9780091793470: Piranha To Scurfy And Other Stories

Ruth Rendell's seventh collection of short stories also includes two unpublished novellas. The long title story is about a man whose life, in a sense, is a book. There are shelves in every room, packed with titles which Ambrose Ribbon has checked pedantically for mistakes of grammar and fact. Life for Ribbon is lonely and obsessive.

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Review:

Ruth Rendell continues to be a passionate supporter of the short story. Her latest collection, "Piranha to Scurfy" and Other Stories, contains quite her most varied forays into the form yet, with a beguilingly disparate selection of tales, united by the usual cold-eyed Rendell narrative voice. The title story (the longest in the book, and a reference to an encyclopaedia entry) is something of a departure for Rendell: although her work has always been rich in elements of the macabre, this is her first full-scale horror tale, and a curious concoction it is. Taking equal parts of Stephen King (of whom a suave surrogate appears in the piece), the great English ghost story writer MR James and Rendell's own individual ground of twisted psychology, the tale is ostensibly an atmospheric study in burgeoning mental terror. A lonely and socially maladroit man finds himself driven to the point of madness when the demon of a bestselling horror tale appears to infiltrate itself into his daily life. But the real agenda of the tale seems to be a kind of proxy revenge by Rendell on obsessively nit-picking readers: the doomed protagonist, Ribbon, spends his time sending crushing letters to writers pointing out their errors of grammar and lapses in style. It's hard not to feel Rendell's relish at his horrific fate, and perhaps critical readers will be given pause. The characterisation has all the dark fascination of Rendell's best work, and if that final shiver of horror isn't quite delivered, Rendell enthusiasts will be more than diverted. The other tales are equally compelling, with The Professional and The Astronomical Scarf being particularly well turned. There is also a pleasingly steady progression of mood throughout the tales: one never senses that these pieces have been casually thrown together by an editor. And Rendell demonstrates time again that she knows how to keep the reader transfixed. -- Barry Forshaw

Review:

"Rendell is a great storyteller who knows how to make sure that the reader has to turn the pages out of a desperate need to find out what is going to happen next" (John Mortimer Sunday Times)

"Plenty of style and many a wry reflection on the human condition ... Rendell's mission in these well-crafted short stories is ... to exhibit a cool skill in the telling of moral fables. This is serious entertainment" (Frances Fyfield Express)

"In her writing, horror does not shake its gory locks directly at us, but hovers on the periphery of our inner vision, hidden among the ordinary, the everyday" (Jane Shilling Sunday Telegraph)

"Rendell's mastery of the difficult short story genre is unsurpassed ... Her mesmerising capacity to shock, chill and disturb is unmatched" ( The Times)

"Rendell is unrivalled at depicting psychologically warped people and at creating unease through the simplest things. This is another triumph" ( Observer)

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Rendell, Ruth
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Rendell, Ruth
Published by Hutchinson (2000)
ISBN 10: 0091793475 ISBN 13: 9780091793470
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