Forget my well-laid plans.
Ignore reminders from my Google calendar.
Eat hastily prepared meals.
Respond quickly and tersely to texts and phone calls.
I can’t tear myself away from this book!
The opening sentence caught my attention. The rest of the first chapter drew me in.
Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write.
Four members of this family—George, Jacqueline, and Melinda Coverdale and Giles Mont—died in the space of fifteen minutes on February 14—Valentine’s Day.
Eunice Parchman and the prosaically named Joan Smith shot them down on a Sunday evening while they were watching opera on television. Two weeks later she was arrested for the crime—because she could not read.
But there was more to it than that.
(Excerpts from Chapter 1 of A Judgement in Stone by Ruth Rendell.)
“Eunice is taken on as a housekeeper by a family of four. She has kept her illiteracy a secret and is obsessed by continuing to keep it so. Unknown to her new employers, she has already murdered the father for whom she had been caring, and has falsified her references. Her inability to adapt to her place in society is masked by the cunning with which she conceals the truth about herself. Misinterpreting every act of kindness she is offered by her employers, she eventually turns on them, stealing the guns that are normally kept locked away. With the aid of a fellow social misfit, she murders the entire family. But Eunice’s illiteracy prevents her from recognizing and disposing of a written clue that was left behind. Eventually a tape recording of the shooting made by one of the victims is discovered. Eunice is charged with the crime, and is mortified when her illiteracy is revealed to the world during the court proceedings.”
Praise from the Los Angeles Times
The Los Angeles Times: “Rendell writes with such elegance and restraint, with such a literate voice and an insightful mind, that she transcends the mystery genre and achieves something almost sublime.”
On the edge of my chair
I became a willing participant like a movie goer yelling at the screen,
“Don’t hire her!” “Get her out of your house!” “Don’t go in the gun room!”
I was tense when clues were ignored by the future victims. Yet, how could they know?
Finishing it one night home alone in a dark house, I was glad of the company of my dog Ginny. I wanted to turn on all the lights in the house but settled for my bedside lamp.
So well done and so creepy! I was amazed at how unnerved I was at times reading the book.
The power of the written word.