Talking to Strange Men

Ruth Rendell

Pantheon Books 1987
A book review by Danny Yee © 1995
Ruth Rendell's novels (whether writing as Ruth Rendell or as Barbara Vine) are rather variable in quality. Talking to Strange Men ranks with Asta's Book as one of my favourites. Though it has some mystery elements, it is more a psychological novel than a detective story, with obsession in various forms as a theme: the sexual obsessions of adults; the obsession children bring to their games; even the oddity of a man obsessed with a pet myna bird.

There are two strands to the plot: in one rival groups of school children are playing an involved game of espionage; in the other an abandoned husband is struggling to rebuild his life. When the two intersect — when one of the adults starts modifying the childrens' secret messages — things come to a climax for two of the characters. Though this may sound a bit fanciful, the plot is actually quite credible and the psychological portrayal of the central characters is completely convincing. As a result Talking to Strange Men is free from the feeling of contrivance that spoils some of Rendell's novels.

January 1995

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%T Talking to Strange Men
%A Rendell, Ruth
%I Pantheon Books
%D 1987
%O hardcover
%G ISBN 0394563247
%P 280pp