Monday, January 15, 2007

The Minotaur

by Barbara Vine

Fun, creepy fun. This lady is a hell of a writer. Beautiful, effortless prose. (She's British, I'm convinced it's easier for them.)

A mystery, yes, not higbrow fiction, but textured, interesting, creepy in a not too creepy way and satisfying. I felt none of the sickly book-bloat guilt I sometimes feel after reading a book in this genre (heck, the New York Times loves her!). Interestingly, her real name is Ruth Rendell, and she's also a Life Peer in the House of Lords (which sounds really cool and means she is known as Baroness Rendell of Babergh). I'm in the middle of reading another book by her, The Blood Doctor, and it's going swimmingly. That's the highest recommendation I can give for Ms. Barbara Vine--I cleaned out the library on all her books after finishing Minotaur.

A psychological thriller, set in the 1970's British countryside. Told from the perspective of a young Swedish student who comes to live for a year in England, because she's fallen in love with a dashing young Brit. She takes up residence as a nurse to a sick adult man in the countryside for a seemingly wealthy, certainly eccentric family, that fascinates her with their endless dysfunctionality and ridiculous behavior.

Of course, this wouldn't be a mystery novel without a mystery, and it centers around the reason her charge is "sick" (he's constantly so drugged out by his overbearing mother, it's difficult to say what his illness truly is) and the disturbing, wickedly mean relationships between the mother and the three sisters. It's a fast-paced read, but also intellectually satisfying. This author is really adept at illuminating the nuances of the characters motivations, with a light touch (she shows, not tells). Interesting themes Ms. Vine explores subtly but consistently: authority, the complex reactions to mental illness, infatuation, love and money.

Important note: make sure you have at least 2 days to devote to this book--hard to put down once you start.


Wendy said...


Wendy said...

I just finished Grasshopper, which was good, but not as good as The Minotaur. Like Blood Doctor, it had a bit too much detail, but she weaved the story & moved through time so effortlessly that it was a nice read.