Shake Hands Forever by Ruth Rendell

‘Shake Hands Forever’ is Ruth Rendell’s 9th Inspector Wexford novel and is worth reading just for the clever twist in the last chapter of the book.

Mrs Hathall is a nasty bad tempered lady. She enjoys people doing the wrong thing by her, so that she has more to complain about. Almost the only person she likes is her first daughter-in-law. Her son Robert divorced and re-married 3 years ago and Mrs Hathall has refused to see his new wife Angela since. Now Robert has convinced his mother to come to Kingsmarkham for the weekend to get to know Angela.

Mrs Hathall is delighted when Angela fails to pick them up from the train station and when she finds her asleep in bed, she is ecstatic… until she realises that Angela is dead.

Robert and Angela were loners. They had no friends and never had people over to the house. So who would Angela have let into the house that could have murdered her? In spring cleaning the house for her mother-in-law’s arrival, she has cleaned away all fingerprints – except for one in the bathtub.

Wexford suspects that Robert murdered his wife. But, Robert was in London at the time and has an iron-clad alibi. There is absolutely no evidence. Pretty soon Wexford is pulled off the case after Robert Hathall complains that he is being harassed.

Wexford is obsessed. He spends the next year having Robert watched at his new home in London and even manages to get his nephew Howard, a chief superintendent in London, involved.

Finally, with Robert about to leave the country, Wexford thinks that he may have enough evidence against him. But then the case gets completely turned on its head, end everyone involved is proven to be wrong.


This book had the most incredible build-up, with everything leading to the events of the final chapter. One nice aside involved the Hathall’s neighbour in Kingsmarkham – Nancy lake, who flirted with Wexford to the point where he was seriously considering an affair.

I enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading the next one in the series – ‘A Sleeping Life’.


Book Published 1976


See a full list of books by Ruth Rendell

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