Ruth Rendell, L’Analphabète, Paris, Librairie des Champs-Élysées (Le Masque no 1532, 1978 ) new translation, 1995
Ruth Rendell, who died yesterday, was not only one of the most distinguished English crime fiction authors, the impeccable writer of more than 60 best selling books (25 of them featuring Inspector Wexford – often presented as a British Maigret- and 14 written under the pen-name Barbara Vine). She was a peer for the Labour Party in the British Parliament. Her attention for the social context and the particular settings of her novels was commanded for modernising British Crime Fiction.
Her 1977 novel A Judgement in Stone (London, Hutchinson) begins with the line : Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write. This is a cool statement about the Crime genre, saying that it is not just about to the whodunit. And a clear indication that crime is a product of socio-cultural circumstances. Rendell was comimtted to represent it that way. The plot, and the social classes antagonism it is based on (servant kills masters) is reminiscent of a well-publicised French Criminal affair: the savage murder of their employer by two young women, the sisters Christine and Léa Papin, two maids from Le Mans, in 1933. Continue reading