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I may have already said this several times about a Ruth Rendell book, but this one is probably the best I have read so far…

I was reluctant at first to read A Fatal Inversion, because I realized in the early pages that I had seen the TV adaptation some years ago. However, I decided to go on, and very soon, everything came back to me, particularly the ending. I didn’t let that deter me, because Rendell’s novels (with the exception of the Inspector Wexford novels) are not whodunits, therefore I had just to let myself be won over by the oppressing and unsettling atmosphere that Rendell manages to infuse into her writings. Well, guess what: not only did I find this particular atmosphere but I was blown-away by the ending. This is how talented Ruth Rendell is: she managed to mislead me so that I made wrong assumptions and was surprised at the end, even though I once knew the story! She actually made me recall a “wrong” ending…

A Fatal Inversion is the story of three men in their thirties: Adam, a man who, at nineteen, inherited his great uncle’s mansion, Rufus, a gynecologist of good reputation and with a taste for alcohol, and Shiva, an Indian who suffers an inferiority complex toward Englishmen… As the bones of a young woman and a baby are found in a pet cemetery in Wyvis Hall, which was once Adam’s inherited property, the three men are lead to recall a series of dramatic events that involved the three of them ten years before, as they were spending the summer in the mansion. They viewed the place as a kind of garden of Eden from which they were banished forever, with the promise never to speak to each other again anymore, and to try to forget, more or less successfully, what happened there…

Ten years before, during the seventies, Adam, who inherited Wyvis hall, decided to visit it briefly before putting it for sale later, after coming back from Greece, where he intended to spend his vacation. But the summer of 76 was so nice, and the company so enjoyable (his friend Rufus and Rufus’s girlfriend Mary Gage were with him), that he decided to live there, and start a kind of community. Mary soon left, but other people joined Adam and Rufus: Shiva, an Indian who wanted above all to be accepted by Rufus and Adam as one of them and Vivien, a woman in search of spiritual enlightenment. But Ecalpemos (as Adam renamed Wyvis hall), might not be what she is looking for: alcohol and drugs stand for spirituality, and the presence of Zosie, a troubled and mysterious young woman brought to Wyvis hall by Rufus, spreads uneasy feelings among them. Soon the drama in which everybody has a part to play, however small, unfolds itself until the climatic conclusion…

As I said previously, A Fatal Inversion has all the elements to make the perfect mystery, it reveals problems that might arise within small communities (as The House of Stairs does too), in which one of the characters is ill with a particular kind of mental trouble (which I won’t name since I don’t want to spoil the story) and provides a masterful, rather unexpected, ending: it is Ruth Rendell (or rather, Barbara Vine) at her very best…