2010: 7. Gallowglass

“When in Rome (said Sandor) you have to walk down the Via Condotti and look at the shops.”

Gallowglass, Barbara Vine

     I often say that I like the Vine novels better than the Rendell novels, but the more Rendell I read, I realize that while I really, really like a few Vine novels (Anna’s Book, The Chimney Sweeper’s Boy), overall her work as Rendell is much more consistent than her Vine writings.  Gallowglass is an example of a Vine book that doesn’t really do much for me.  It’s narrated by Joe, a down and out lower class kid who was about to throw himself in front of a train.  His life is saved by the mysterious Sandor, who tells him that it now belongs to him.  Joe becomes devoted to Sandor, who tells him mysterious stories and pulls him into some kind of plot that Joe doesn’t quite understand.  Woven in with this story is the story of Paul Garnett, a former teacher who has become a bodyguard to a wealthy woman in order to give his child a better life in the country.  Over the course of the novel the story unfolds, including a beautiful woman, an ancient kidnapping, and a number of strange love stories.  

      It is classic Vine - an old story slowly unfolding, with the reader not understanding what happened until the very end - but it didn’t work for me, largely because I wasn’t interested in the character of Joe, who needed to be sort of stupid for the story to work, and thus annoyed me.  A fine read, but not up to Vine/Rendell’s best.

Date/Place Completed: January 2010

Categories: Re-Read, Ruth Rendell Project

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017