2009: 73. The Water's Lovely

“Weeks went by when Ismay never thought of it at all.  Then something would bring it back or it would return in a dream.”

The Water’s Lovely, Ruth Rendell

A stand alone novel that is as much psychological social comedy as murder mystery, this Rendell novel blurs the line between mystery fiction and “literary” novel, as it could just as easily be found in the non-mystery section had it not been written by one of the great mystery writers of our time.  It is the story of two sisters, Ismay and Heather.  When their stepfather was found drowned in the bathtub years ago, the police concluded that it was an accident.  Ismay has always thought, however, that it was murder - specifically that Heather killed their stepfather to protect Ismay herself from his inappropriate intentions.  She’s buried the thought, but now that they are grown up, and Heather is dating, Ismay wonders whether she should keep Heather’s dark secret.  Good enough, right?  But add this aspect - as the novel continues, and we learn more and more, we begin to realize that while Ismay seems certain, she may not really know what happened, and her actions to try to “make things right” might make them worse than ever.  A grand story containing really interesting characters, and cleverly playing with the concept of the reliable narrator, I think this is one of Rendell’s best.


Date/Place Completed: June 2009; D.C.

Categories: Fiction; Ruth Rendell Project

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017