Mystery readers around the world have suffered a loss. On Saturday morning, her publisher announced that British crime writer Ruth Rendell died at age 85. Rendell, the author of the Inspector Wexford crime series and more than 60 novels, passed away in a London hospital, where she had been admitted after suffering a severe stroke in January.
During a prolific career that spanned half a century, Rendell wrote cerebral thrillers that didn’t shy away from life’s darker corners. Her novels grappled with domestic violence, racism, slavery and exploitation.
Rendell’s career in fiction began in 1964 with the publication of From Doon with Death, the first mystery in the Inspector Wexford series. She would write more than 20 novels for its hero, Inspector Reginald Wexford, who later became the inspiration of a hit television series.
And she was well rewarded for her efforts. Over the span of her career, Rendell won several awards, including the Crime Writers’ Association Cartier Diamond Dagger award, three Edgars from the Mystery Writers of America, the Sunday Times Literary Award and a Arts Council National Book Award.
But Ruth Rendell’s writing career was not without its blemishes. She began as a journalist with the Chigwell Times, but was forced to resign when she tried to cover an event she had not attended. She was caught because one speaker died during his speech.
It was with a tireless dedication to mystery writing and to her good works for women’s rights that Rendell redeemed herself. As a Labour life peer (or baroness), she helped to pass a law that prevents girls from being sent abroad for genital mutilation.
Ruth Barbara Graseman was born in 1930 in Essex. She married journalist Don Rendell in 1953 and divorced him 22 years later. Dark Corners, her last novel, is set to be released in October.
Writers, publishers, fans and friends have taken to Twitter to share memories and thoughts about Rendell and her work. She will be remembered as the master of the page-turner who had keen sense of suspense and pursued it fearlessly.