One Across, Two Down by Ruth Rendell (1971)

Ruth Rendell is always a good choice for long journeys: however far-fetched her plots or bizarre her characters, she writes well and is unputdownable. I started this on the train to Cologne yesterday, read all through dinner (Funkhaus) and stayed up late to finish it. I particularly enjoy her real sense of place – not just the geographical location but also the domestic minutiae. This story – a thoroughly selfish, murderous crossword fanatic, his impossible mother-in-law and his long-suffering wife – is deeply rooted in north London and the 1970s. As someone who can recall the first fridge and the first washing machine to cross our threshold, I was hooked.

The thought crossed my mind that, on the eve of the Brexit letter, I was reading a novel set in the immediate pre-EU era. Whatever the future holds, I certainly hope it’s not as narrow and strait as those days!

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