Piranha To Scurfy And Other Stories

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9780099414995: Piranha To Scurfy And Other Stories
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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, without his mother now, is lonely and obsessive, filled with psychoses and neuroses, with the ever-present possibility of a descent into violent madness. He still keeps his mother's dressing table exactly as she had left it, the wardrobe door always open so that her clothes can be seen inside, and her pink silk nightdress on the bed. There is one book too that he associates particularly with her - volume VIII of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Piranha to Scurfy. It marked a very significant moment in their relationship. In the other stories, Ruth Rendell deals with a variety of themes, some macabre, some vengeful, some mysterious, all precisely observed. The second novella, High Mysterious Union, explores a strange, erotic universe in a dream-like corner of rural England, and illustrates very atmospherically what range Ruth Rendell has as a writer, expanding beyond her famous sphere of crime writing.

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Review:

The short story is, in many ways, the perfect medium for the audio book, and Ruth Rendell continues to be a passionate supporter of the form, providing some vintage entries in her latest collection, Piranha to Scurfy and Other Stories. In Penelope Wilton, Rendell has the perfect reader for this beguilingly disparate selection of tales, united by the usual cold-eyed Rendell narrative voice. Wilton has long been one of this country's finest actresses, equally adroit at comedy and the most demanding drama. Here, she finds a neutral, dispassionate voice that is the perfect conduit for Rendell's understated prose. 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, as 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. Wilton's reading never lays on the horrors with a trowel, allowing the steady accumulation of detail to make its telling effect. The characterisation, perfectly delineated by the actress, 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, and Wilton finds the dark humour of such pieces as High Mysterious Unionas acutely as the fatalistic menace of the other tales.

--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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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

9780375727597: Piranha to Scurfy: And Other Stories (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard)

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ISBN 10: 0375727590 ISBN 13: 9780375727597
Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, 2002
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9780609608531: Piranha to Scurfy: And Other Stories

Crown ..., 2001
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9780385259804: Piranha to Scurfy : And Other Stories

Double..., 2001
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9780091793685: 'Piranha to Scurfy' and Other Stories

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