Sun Sentinel Broward Edition

Ruth Ren­dell, 85, called Bri­tain’s ‘queen of crime’

- By Matt Schudel The Wash­ing­ton Post

Ruth Ren­dell, a pro­lific Bri­tish nov­el­ist who brought a new sense of psy­cho­log­i­cal ten­sion to her crime fic­tion, which of­ten ex­plored con­tem­po­rary so­cial and sex­ual themes, died Satur­day at a hos­pi­tal in Lon­don. She was born Feb. 17, 1930, and died at 85.

Ren­dell was con­sid­ered one of the fore­most writ­ers of crime fic­tion in re­cent decades, with more than 60 books to her credit.

She and her friend P.D. James, who died in Novem­ber, were of­ten called Bri­tain’s “queens of crime,” although both despised the ti­tle.

Ren­dell wrote un­der two names and in three dis­tinct styles.

She pub­lished more than 20 nov­els set in the English coun­try­side that fea­tured her im­per­turbable de­tec­tive, Chief In­spec­tor Regi­nald Wex­ford.

She also wrote dozens of dark sus­pense nov­els that seemed to peer in­side the mur­derer’s state of mind.

Be­gin­ning in the 1980s, she pub­lished a se­ries of books un­der the name Bar­bara Vine, in which she ex­plored some­times shock­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal ob­ses­sions or sex­ual be­hav­ior.

In what­ever form she chose, Ren­dell was ad­mired for her care­ful plot­ting, de­scrip­tions and the rich com­plex­ity of her char­ac­ters.

Ren­dell’s first novel, “From Doon With Death” (1964), in­tro­duced Wex­ford, the stoic, schol­arly de­tec­tive from the fic­tional Kings­markham, a Sus­sex town with an ex­cep­tion­ally high mur­der rate.

The Wex­ford nov­els are straight­for­ward po­lice pro­ce­du­rals, but over the years they touched on the prob­lems of the mod­ern world, in­clud­ing ur­ban sprawl, youth­ful re- bellion, fem­i­nism and so­cial hi­er­ar­chy.

“I don’t get sick of him be­cause he’s me,” she told Bri­tain’s Guardian news­pa­per in 2013. “He doesn’t look like me, of course, but the way he thinks and his prin­ci­ples and his ideas and what he likes do­ing, that’s me.”

Ruth Bar­bara Grase­mann was born Feb. 17, 1930, in Lon­don. Her mother was Swedish, and both par­ents be­came teach­ers.

A woman of re­mark­able self-dis­ci­pline, Ren­dell ex­er­cised for 30 min­utes each morn­ing be­fore sit­ting down to write at 8:30.In 1997, Ren­dell was named a baroness, which gave her a seat in the House of Lords. She was out­spo­kenly lib­eral and con­trib­uted 100,000 pounds (about $150,000) a year to char­i­ties.

 ?? OLI SCARFF/GETTY ?? Au­thor Ruth Ren­dell, who died Satur­day, was ad­mired for her way with words.
OLI SCARFF/GETTY Au­thor Ruth Ren­dell, who died Satur­day, was ad­mired for her way with words.

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