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The Monster in the Box

Cover of The Monster in the Box

The Monster in the Box

Chief Inspector Wexford Series, Book 22

The Monster In The Box is the latest addition to Ruth Rendell's classic and beguiling Inspector Wexford series. In this enthralling new book, Rendell, "the best mystery writer in the English-speaking world" (Time), takes Inspector Wexford back to his days as a young policeman, and to the man he has long suspected of murder — serial murder.

Outside the house where Wexford investigated his first murder case — a woman found strangled in her bedroom — he noticed a short, muscular man wearing a scarf and walking a dog. He gave Wexford an unnerving stare. Without any solid evidence, Wexford began to suspect that this man — Eric Targo, he learned — was the killer.

Over the years there are more unsolved, apparently motiveless murders in the town of Kingsmarkham, and Wexford continues to quietly suspect that the increasingly prosperous Targo — van driver, property developer, kennel owner, and animal lover — is behind them.

Now, half a lifetime later, Wexford spots Targo back in Kingsmarkham after a long absence. Wexford tells his longtime partner, Mike Burden, about his suspicions, but Burden dismisses them as fantasy. Meanwhile, Burden's wife, Jenny, has suspicions of her own. She believes that the Rahmans, a highly respectable immigrant family from Pakistan, may be forcing their daughter, Tamima, into an arranged marriage — or worse.

In The Monster in the Box, the twenty-second book in the Inspector Wexford series, fans will be thrilled to meet the now-aging inspector in the robust early days of his career. For new readers, no introduction to this spectacular writer and her compelling protagonist could be finer.

The Monster In The Box is the latest addition to Ruth Rendell's classic and beguiling Inspector Wexford series. In this enthralling new book, Rendell, "the best mystery writer in the English-speaking world" (Time), takes Inspector Wexford back to his days as a young policeman, and to the man he has long suspected of murder — serial murder.

Outside the house where Wexford investigated his first murder case — a woman found strangled in her bedroom — he noticed a short, muscular man wearing a scarf and walking a dog. He gave Wexford an unnerving stare. Without any solid evidence, Wexford began to suspect that this man — Eric Targo, he learned — was the killer.

Over the years there are more unsolved, apparently motiveless murders in the town of Kingsmarkham, and Wexford continues to quietly suspect that the increasingly prosperous Targo — van driver, property developer, kennel owner, and animal lover — is behind them.

Now, half a lifetime later, Wexford spots Targo back in Kingsmarkham after a long absence. Wexford tells his longtime partner, Mike Burden, about his suspicions, but Burden dismisses them as fantasy. Meanwhile, Burden's wife, Jenny, has suspicions of her own. She believes that the Rahmans, a highly respectable immigrant family from Pakistan, may be forcing their daughter, Tamima, into an arranged marriage — or worse.

In The Monster in the Box, the twenty-second book in the Inspector Wexford series, fans will be thrilled to meet the now-aging inspector in the robust early days of his career. For new readers, no introduction to this spectacular writer and her compelling protagonist could be finer.

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    1

    HE HAD NEVER told anyone. The strange relationship, if it could be called that, had gone on for years, decades, and he had never breathed a word about it. He had kept silent because he knew no one would believe him. None of it could be proved, not the stalking, not the stares, the conspiratorial smiles, not the killings, not any of the signs Targo had made because he knew that Wexford knew and could do nothing about it.

    It had gone on for years and then it had stopped. Or seemed to have stopped. Targo was gone. Back to Birmingham yet again or perhaps to Coventry. A long time had passed since he had been seen in Kingsmarkham, and Wexford had thought it was all over. Thought with regret, not relief, because if Targo disappeared--more to the point, if Targo never did it again--what hope had he of bringing the man to justice? Still, he had almost made up his mind he would never see him anymore. He would never again set eyes on that short, muscular figure with the broad shoulders and the thick, sturdy legs, the coarse, fairish hair, blunt features, and bright blue eyes--and the mark that must always be kept covered up. Wexford had only once seen him without the scarf he wore wrapped round his neck, a wool scarf in winter, a cotton or silk one in summer, a scarf that belonged to one of his wives perhaps, no matter so long as it covered that purple-brown birthmark which disfigured his neck, crept up to his cheek, and dribbled down to his chest. He had seen him only once without a scarf, never without a dog.

    Eric Targo. Older than Wexford by seven or eight years, a much-married man, van driver, property developer, kennels proprietor, animal lover, murderer. It was coincidence or chance--Wexford favoured the latter--that he was thinking about Targo for the first time in weeks, wondering what had happened to him, pondering and dismissing the rumour that he was back living in the area, regretting that he had never proved anything against him, when the man appeared in front of him, a hundred yards ahead. There was no doubt in his mind, even at that distance, even though Targo's shock of hair was quite white now. He still strutted, straight-backed, the way a short man carries himself, and he still wore a scarf. In his left hand, on the side nearest to Wexford, he carried a laptop computer. Or, to be accurate, a case made to hold a laptop.

    Wexford was in his car. He pulled to the side of Glebe Road and switched off the engine. Targo had got out of a white van and gone into a house on the same side as Wexford was parked. No dog? Wexford had to decide whether he wanted Targo to see him. Perhaps it hardly mattered. How long was it? Ten years? More? He got out of the car and began to walk in the direction of the house Targo had gone into. It was one of a terrace between a jerry-built block of flats and a row of small shops, an estate agent, a nail bar, a newsagent, and a shop called Webb and Cobb (a name which always made Wexford smile) once selling pottery and kitchen utensils but now closed down and boarded up. Mike Burden had lived here once, when he was first married to his first wife; number 36, Wexford remembered. Number 34 was the house Targo had gone into. The front door of Burden's old house was painted purple now, and the new residents had paved over their narrow strip of front garden to make a motorbike park, something Burden said he resented, as if he had any right to comment on what the present owners did to their property. It made Wexford smile to himself to think of it.

    There was no sign of Targo. Wexford walked up to the offside of the van and looked through the driver's window. It was open about three inches, for the benefit of...

About the Author-
  • Ruth Rendell has won three Edgar Awards, the highest accolade from Mystery Writers of America, as well as four Gold Daggers and a Diamond Dagger for outstanding contribution to the genre from England's prestigious Crime Writers' Association. Her remarkable career has spanned more than forty years, with more than sixty books published. A member of the House of Lords, she lives in London.
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