From Agatha Christie To Ruth Rendell: British Women Writers by S. Rowland

By S. Rowland

From Agatha Christie to Ruth Rendell is the 1st booklet to contemplate heavily the highly well known and influential works of Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham, Nag Marsh, P.D. James and Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine. supplying reviews of forty two key novels, this quantity introduces those authors for college students and the final reader within the context in their lives, and of serious debates on gender, colonialism, psychoanalysis, the Gothic, and feminism. It contains interviews with P.D. James and Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine.

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James and Ruth Rendell, female writers are in the ascendant, so these authors define themselves both with and against the artifice of the golden age. They make a conscious bid for realism (with its attendant status as literary writers), but also conspire to operate within golden age generic strategies of the domestic murder, the restricted group of knowable suspects and so on. Tensions between realism (with the obvious point that most murder is not like the genre) and golden age aesthetics is a fascinating dynamic within these novels.

The ghost himself does not remain unchallenged, either in gender or in his potency for dominance over his surviving household. Lafcadio as dead patriarch appears to dominate all: he is a kind of gendered godfigure in whose shadow and by whose will (literally, as his will governs their lives) this familial group is constituted. Yet much of his godpower, his art in his hidden paintings, is revealed as a scam. Similarly challenging is the way Lisa comes to be described as ghostly, a female embodied icon of past art and desire to counter the masculine disembodied ‘will’ – revealed as increasingly ambiguous and unauthorised writing.

12 Yet it is Dalgliesh’s capacity for extra-professional pity that contributes to his success and the consequent aura of mystique with which his colleagues regard him. Wexford’s relation to the police force is more hot-headed. Loyal and even parental to his devoted authoritarian subordinate, Mike Burden, Wexford’s imaginative excursions into the unusual or unconventional aspects of crime leads to frequent accusations of obsession. 13 Wexford may not always be right in his intuitions, but these powers, explicitly structured as ‘outside’ proper detecting, do lead to a solution that would otherwise be unrealised.

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