2 of 4
Dark Corners
240 pages; Scribner
An undisputed master of crime fiction, Ruth Rendell's posthumously published last book is a calculated, slow burn. The protagonist, Carl Martin, is horrified when he learns that he has accidentally caused the death of a childhood friend, a well-known actress. Her demise—from diet pills—is all over the tabloids. Carl sold her the pills from his late father's leftover stash, not realizing they could cause heart failure. Meanwhile, his creepy tenant Dermot circles in, saying, "I think you should know that while I'm a believer, a pretty strict follower of the Christian faith, a church-goer, as you may have noticed, I haven't any of what some people call honor." Yep, Dermot knows what Carl did, and he begins to blackmail him for free rent. As the demands escalate, Carl continues to acquiesce, despite his girlfriend's urging him to come clean. But Carl can't, or won't, until well...everything explodes. A subplot involving a young woman conniving to claim the actress's apartment adds some dark comic relief. Only Rendell can show us how chillingly easy it is for ordinary people to slide into criminal behavior.
— Dawn Raffel