Once again I’ve decided to go on a trip down memory lane, this time to revisit another favorite of mine, this time one who doesn’t quite fit into the “Cozy” mold as easily as the majority of my most beloved authors – Ruth Rendell. I’ve just finished re-reading From Doon with Death, and I’m pleased to realize that I love it as much now as when I first read it.
Ruth Rendell is one of those authors I sometimes have difficulty calling “Cozy.” There are a lot of elements to Rendell’s novels that don’t exactly fit into the “Cozy” mold as neatly as someone like Ngaio Marsh or Agatha Christie. Certainly her Inspector Wexford isn’t the typical Cozy sleuth – he’s a police inspector through and through, not an amateur who just happens to stumble into murder time and time again. Rendell even makes it a point to describe him as fitting into the mold the average person would imagine if asked to think of a police chief, at least by the standards of the day.
All that said, From Doon with Death is perhaps the Coziest of her novels that I can recall, and serves to show why I ultimately think her Inspector Wexford books can usually be considered… well, if not Cozy, at least somewhat Cozy-adjacent. The murder itself is quick, off-screen, and relatively painlessly conducted, while the backdrop of Kingsmarkham, England, feels very much like the comfortable Cozy settings we’re all familiar with. Old relationships are unearthed between most of the members of the cast of suspects, most of whom had made some attempt to distance themselves from the unfortunately departed.
That said, there are also elements present, even in From Doon with Death, that may certainly put off many Cozy-minded readers. However, these elements have mellowed somewhat with age, and what must have been considered ground-breaking at the time is no longer such a shock.
(As a side note, Rendell’s stand alone novels and the books she has written under the pseudonym Barbara Vine tend to veer a lot further from the standard Cozy mold, though like the Inspector Wexford series they are also very good books.)
If you’re interested in reading more of these brief revisits of some of the more popular Cozy Mystery Series that I’ve written in the past, you can find them at the Most Recommended Cozy Mystery Series page on my site.