The Portobello area of West London has a rich personality – vibrant, brilliant in colour, noisy, with graffiti that approach art, bizarre and splendid. An indefinable edge to it adds a spice of danger. There is nothing safe about Portobello… Eugene Wren inherited an art gallery from his father near an arcade that now sells cashmere, handmade soaps and children’s clothes. But he decided to move to a more upmarket site in Kensington Church Street. Eugene was fifty, with prematurely white hair. He was, perhaps, too secretive for his own good. He also had an addictive personality. But he had cut back radically on his alcohol consumption and had given up cigarettes. Which was just as well, considering he was going out with a doctor. For all his good intentions, though, there was something he didn’t want her to know about… On a shopping trip one day, Eugene, quite by chance, came across an envelope containing money. He picked it up. For some reason, rather than report the matter to the police, he wrote a note and stuck it up on lamppost near his house: ‘Found in Chepstow Villas, a sum of money between eighty and a hundred and sixty pounds. Anyone who has lost such a sum should apply to the phone number below.’ This note would link the lives of a number of very different people – each with their obsessions, problems and dreams and despairs. And through it all the hectic life of Portobello would bustle on.
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As well as Ruth Rendell’s customary expertise with the narrative demands of crime fiction, Portobello provides a colourful and eccentric portrait of one of the most distinctive areas of the capital, the Portobello district of West London. To both Londoners and visitors, the areas is lively and exciting, but there is a level of criminality here which Rendell handles as adroitly as ever. The book is something of departure for the author, less plot-led than customarily.
Eugene Wrenn, who lives modestly despite his wealth, has inherited an art gallery from his father. But Eugene moves to a more upmarket location in Kensington Church Street. He is 50, but looks older than his age, and is plagued by an addictive personality (currently, he finds himself unable to give up an addiction to low-calorie sweets). Despite this, he has a reasonably happy relationship with a GP, Ella, who finds herself able to put up with these quirks -- at least, those she knows about. Eugene discovers an envelope containing money, which he picks up in the street. But instead of doing the logical thing and taking it to the police, he sticks a note on a lamppost near his house, asking whoever lost it to claim the money (but withholding information only known to the real owner) The first to apply is a small-time criminal, Lance (recently thrown out of his house for domestic violence), who is thinking of casing the house of his benefactor -- even if he is initially unable to get the money. But the genuine owner of the money is the disturbed Joel, who lives in a self-induced darkness and shares his life with a phantom companion.
Utilising this disparate and eccentric cast of characters, Rendell forges a discursive but compelling novel that (as always with her work) keeps us reading inexorably. Some may find the characterisation broader than they are used to with Rendell, but this is still seductive fare. --Barry ForshawReview:
'A fiction whose effect on the reader is almost as addictive as the slimming sweets on which Eugene becomes so disturbingly dependent' -- Sunday Telegraph
'A roundabout of characters is set whirling along in an irresistibly readable, tragi-comic carnival ... The reader who is tired of Ruth Rendell's novel of London is tired of life' -- Independent
'As ever Rendell writes with wry and witty authority ... It's intelligent stuff, and very readable' -- Spectator
'Ruth Rendell excels in the creation of dread by bringing together disturbed psyches with the contingent and coincidental' -- TLS
'Ruth Rendell is marvellous at psychological tension' -- Sunday Times
`A thriller steeped in psychological intrigue ... Rendell's prose style is as succinct and accessible as ever' -- Daily Mirror
`An intense, compelling tale' -- Psychologies
`Impossible to put down ... Portobello is as brilliant as anything she has ever written' -- Evening Standard
`With this captivating novel, the reigning queen of crime fiction establishes that an unsolved murder is not a necessary ingredient of a suspense-filled mystery' -- Time Out
`[Rendell] portrays the Portobello area, a melting-pot home to the poor and the posh, with harsh, realistic affection bordering on the elegiac' -- The Times
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Book Description Hutchinson, 2008. Hardback with Dust Jacket. Book Condition: New. Published by Hutchinson in 2008. Hardback with Dust Jacket, 288 pages. New book. The book has not been read, it is in perfect condition, cover and pages are not damaged. Bookseller Inventory # 21049