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Judith W Colombo

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A Writers' Writer
By Judith W Colombo   
Not "rated" by the Author.
Last edited: Monday, October 22, 2007
Posted: Monday, October 22, 2007

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A review of Ruth Rendell's collection of short stories.

Ruth Rendell is one of the writers whose works I can read over and over again and still find them spellbinding. She is a master of her craft and well deserving of the awards she has won. 


Ruth Rendell is the winner of three Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America, one Diamond Dagger, three Gold Daggers, and one Sliver Dagger from the Crime Writers Association of England. Known for her insightful explorations of human nature in all its beauty and ugliness, this author creates books that are suspenseful and riveting.


Piranha to Scurfy, a collection of nine short stories, will not disappoint Rendell’s fans, and they are an excellent introduction to her work for new readers. 


In the first and title story Piranha to Scurfy, we meet Ambrose Ribbion a middle-aged bachelor whose dominating mother has recently died. Amborse lives off the royalties from his father’s mathematical textbooks. Free from financial concerns, Ambrose spends his days reading the works of popular authors, finding mistakes in their grammar or word usage and writing them scathing letters.


This unpleasant little man continues his reign of terror against authors until he reads the wrong book. This book terrifies him, whispering to him in his mother’s voice. However, Ambrose knows that “Mommy” is dead. He knows exactly how she died. He is positive that she is dead. Is she?


In the story Fair Exchange, a man must face the fact that the wife he adores is going to die. However, a woman who claims to be a spiritual healer offers him a choice, his granddaughter’s life for his wife’s life. What follows is a strange twist.  You will have to read the story to find out exactly what it is.


Another great story from the collection is Catamount. Nora an English woman and her husband often fly to the United States to spend holidays with their friends Carrie and Chuck who live in the Rocky Mountains. Over the years, Nora and her husband fall in love with the vast overwhelming beauty of the land and the varied and savage wildlife. Nora loves the animals and especially wants to see the wild and beautiful cougar she has only heard about.


  Years pass, and in her seventies, Nora returns for one last visit before her friends move to an apartment in the city. She still hopes to catch sight of the elusive cougar. She is granted her wish one cold windswept morning when alone and defenseless, she meets the powerful animal on a mountain trail.


The last and longest story in the book is the novella High Mysterious Union. This is an enchanting tale of a remote village where all the villagers are stereotypically beautiful and no one wants to leave. The trouble is that in order to stay you must follow the rather bizarre rules of the village or be forced out. This is a dark, erotic, and suspenseful tale.


I have only used four of the stories to tell you a little about the book and peak your interest. I could have used any of the stories to do this. They are all well told and riveting. As in any collection, some stories will appeal to the reader more than others, but in a group such as this, it is merely a matter of personal preference. I read this very quickly and with great enjoyment. I am sure you will enjoy these stories also.

Web Site: Judith W Colombo

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