‘Wolf to the Slaughter’ is Ruth Rendell’s third Wexford mystery. Written in 1967 it is a long way from the Ruth Rendell books that we see today, but still an excellent buildup of the Inspector Reg Wexford character.
When the famous and eccentric modern painter Rupert Margolis advises the police that his sister Anita (Ann) is missing, no-one is terribly concerned. Then the police receive an anonymous letter reporting the murder of a woman named Ann, and suddenly the search is on the Anita Margolis’s body and her killer. Anita was a wealthy woman and was carrying a significant amount of cash with her when she disappeared. She was also very beautiful and had plenty of male followers.
Wexford and Burden manage to trace the anonymous letter to a house where a room is being rented by the evening. Here they find out that there was so much blood in the room that someone must have died. They still don’t have a body, but now they have the name – Geoff Smith – to track down.
The rest of the investigation involves tracking down Geoff Smith and following up on various criminals and people connected to Anita Margolis. This includes the recently released Monkey Matthews, charwoman Ruby Branch, the owner of Grovers newsagents and his daughter Linda, cosmetic salesman Kirkpatrick, garage owner Russell Crawthorne and mechanic Ray Anstey. Along the way, one of the junior police officers – Drayton, forms a very inappropriate attachment.
When a body is finally found, the murderer is quickly identified and the result is a complete surprise.
This book shows Ruth Rendell starting to get into her stride. I think that from this point on we can start to expect the unexpected as Rendell perfects the art of clever little surprises. I can’t wait to get on with the next book in the series – ‘The Best Man to Die’.
Book Published 1967