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Physical description; 248 p. ; 24 cm. Notes; Not price-clipped and first printing. Summary; Ruth Rendell's seventh collection of short stories also includes two unpublished novellas.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. Subjects; Suspense fiction. Modern fiction ; Crime & mystery ; Short stories. Ficition / Mystery & Detective / General. Fiction / Mystery & Detective / Collections & Anthologies. Genres; Short story. Suspense fiction.
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Ruth Rendell's seventh collection of short stories also includes two unpublished novellas.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.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
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