Tigerlily's Orchids, By Ruth Rendell

Jane Jakeman
Friday 20 August 2010 00:00
Comments

Ruth Rendell's novels of London amount to a modern cultural history of the city – a fictional urban archaeology of Holland Park in the hippie-chick era, redbrick terraces before and after the attentions of the "property ladder". Now she turns her sharp powers of observation on to a small suburban block of private flats, very precisely located in the social scale, too far away from the centre to be really expensive, just a cut above council housing. Rendell charts the local changes in sharp detail: the closure of the local off-licence, the problems of Mr Ali's corner shop.

As for the inhabitants of the flats, they are at first glance perfectly ordinary people. But trust Rendell to take a second look – and behold, this is an extraordinary bunch: a young doctor with a semi-disastrous career as a newspaper medical consultant, a middle-aged woman in the process of cheerfully drinking herself to death, a caretaker with deeply unpleasant habits.

And there's young Stuart, good-looking, self-confident – the kind of man other men hate on sight. Rendell stirs some outsiders into this mix: the husband of Stuart's cold-hearted mistress, a beautiful oriental girl with bruises on her arms who is glimpsed in the garden next door: the "Tigerlily" of the title. How will their lives mesh together?

It's not much of a surprise, nor really intended, that they come together through Stuart's murder, following a party. There are plenty of candidates for killer, and tension is created by following the various possibilities as each character tries to carry on after the crucial event of his death. The most trustworthy is Duncan, an elderly widower, whose flat is always mysteriously warm. From his flat, he can keep watch on the peculiar household next door, but his naivety protects him from any sinister conclusions – until the end.

Rendell juggles with several mysteries. As well as the problem of Stuart's murderer, and that of the strange oriental characters, we follow the thread of a young woman drawn into petty crime. A fourth strand is supplied by a tenant who was an admirer of the handsome Stuart and finds herself homeless, reduced to living with an unsavoury young man in an attic. Out of this spider's web of interwoven lives emerges the truth of Stuart's murder – a beautifully disguised and manipulated surprise, set amid the jittery background of the restless city.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in