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If you could sum up Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter in three words, what would they be?
Predictable, Conventional, Procedural
What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)
Saw it coming a mile way (that is to say, very early on in the novel). But knowing Rendell/Vine's genius, I kept telling myself throughout the whole thing: "No, no, calm yourself; she'll no doubt go a totally different path to what you're expecting." Not so. No twists were forthcoming. Also, this ending was very rushed and seemed to come out of nowhere i.e. with very little notice to the reader that Wexford was hot on the trail. Given Wexford's particular emotional attachment to one of the victims, it seems extra-odd that we're given no hints that he's started to make sense of the case. Finally, the very last few sentences cheated the reader of satisfaction over the solved mystery; we--or at least I-- need a little more. Even another paragraph would have been useful.
Which scene was your favorite?
Although I didn't care for all the drama and trauma with Wexford's daughters, I chuckled over every scene featuring one daughter's loathsome new boyfriend, and Wexford's pained reactions to him.
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
The above boyfriend scenes elicited audible chuckles that caused the people in nearby work stations to look over at me.
Any additional comments?
For me, this was not one of Rendell's best. Admittedly, I have always preferred her more psychologically-driven, non-procedural-heavy works (such as the ones written as Barbara Vine) but this novel stands out as a particularly mundane police procedural, with (unwelcome) emphasis on Wexford's daughter dramas thrown in as if to add "characterization." I understand why Rendell drew the parallels between his home life and the case at hand, but it was too much.
Overall, the book was entertaining enough that I'll listen to it again in the future, and I don't mind recommending it to you if you're a Rendell fan...I would just advise newcomers to Rendell/Vine to start with other of her novels, lest you get the impression that she is a conventional mystery writer who writes conventional, predictable (if well-written) detective novels. Normally, she's anything but.
As for the narrator Davina Porter, she is a solid one and I'd readily buy more books read by her. Her voice is itself modulated in tone and pleasant, and that's no small point when you consider how bad it can be to listen to an overly-breathy or too-nasal, etc. etc. narrator for several hours on end. Her forte is lower-class accents; those are great. She is good at Wexford's West Country accent, too, though sometimes distractingly inept at American accents.
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