Review: THE NEW GIRL FRIEND (Pantheon Books 1986)
Author: Ruth Rendell
It's probably safe to say that Ruth Rendell is best-known for her novels, particularly the Inspector Wexford series. However, Rendell has also written her share of short stories, including the ones in THE NEW GIRL FRIEND, named for the Edgar-winning short story.
The anthology is comprised of 11 stories, all of which are suspenseful, but have more than that going for them. They are studies in human nature and how our foibles can sometimes lead to disastrous results.
Despite being somewhat uneven in quality, most of the stories make engaging reading. Whether it's a woman's nagging guilt over a stolen clock, a man who likes (a little too much) to dress up as a wolf or someone who's obsessed with his ex-wife (years after breaking up), Rendell does masterful work exploring the human psyche, while creating a sense of dread over what will eventually happen.
The title story is a good example. In it, a woman strikes up a friendship with a man – keeping it secret from her husband – but not for the reasons one would assume at first. The story builds to a violent climax that, rather than being an unexpected turn, seems almost inevitable.
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