by Bruce TierneySeptember, 2005
Rendell probes the pitfalls of modern-day crime
The reigning grande dame of English murder mysteries, Ruth Rendell, is back with a diabolical tale of unrequited love (and a murder or two), 13 Steps Down. Superstar model Nerissa Nash has had her share of would-be suitors, even a stalker or two, but nobody quite as persistent as Michael Mix Cellini. Mix has single-mindedly followed Nash's career forever, and he feels certain that if he can just meet the object of his affections, she will be bowled over by his panache, charisma and good looks. Never mind that he is, in reality, no better than average in any of the above-listed categories, and he suffers from an expanding midsection as well Mix intends to make Nerissa Nash his wife. Meanwhile, Mix's landlady, elderly Gwendolen Chawcer, suffers in the throes of her own unrequited love that dates back some 50 years, a chaste flirtation with young doctor Stephen Reeves. When she discovers that Reeves' wife has recently passed away, she decides to rekindle the flame, with mildly disastrous results. There is no love lost between Mix and Gwendolen, and there is a truly evil cat afoot in the house as well. When the first murder is finally committed, a shallow grave will be dug in the backyard of the townhouse they share, and it will not take long for its contents to rise accusingly to the surface. 13 Steps Down is great fun, a tongue-in-cheek look at the pitfalls of modern-day murder.