Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter

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Rating: 3.5/5

Published in 1992

Even though there are multiple books releasing nearly every day, it’s a completely different kind of excitement to read old books. I haven’t read Ruth Rendell before and this book is the 15th in the Inspector Wexford series. I expected to feel lost about the characters but thankfully, the characters and their lives were understandable. It’s always great fun to read a proper police procedural. The police are as clueless as the readers and they stumble upon clues along with them. Every suspect intrigues them and drives them crazy with suspicion. Each officer has their own theory which they don’t themselves believe in. At the end, Inspector Wexford comes with the major confrontation putting all the pieces in place and solving all the clues.

Martin, a police officer, gets shot and killed in a bank robbery. After few months, a mass killing happens where a family of three are shot dead with one gravely injured. Inspector Wexford and his team suspect a strong connection between both the killings and try to derive the connection. The survivor, Daisy, helps the police as much as possible by providing all the details she could remember about the masked man who killed her family. Inspector Wexford likes Daisy a lot and finds a lot of similarities to his own daughter with whom he has a strained relationship. Daisy finds Wexford trustworthy and talks to him openly about her feelings. What was the motive behind the massacre? Robbery or Revenge? If revenge, by whom? Enemies of Daisy’s grandmother, or her mother or her stepfather? Wexford’s team sets off to find all those people connected to all the three victims and deduce who had the motive. Most of all, the team has to find why the murderer didn’t kill Daisy.

Rendell poses loads of questions throughout the story which stands as a reminder to the readers before they start investigating the case themselves. All the characters/suspects have either a motive or a poor alibi. The sudden change of Daisy’s attitude forces us to put her under the suspicion radar too. Since all the characters regularly feature in the chapters, they are nicely established. With several team meetings, the case and the progress are debriefed well too.

Inspector Wexford is a very interesting character. Family man in a happy marriage, such characters have become very rare now. Most of the lead investigators nowadays have a very tragic past. Wexford is a serious man. A good leader. He hears to the ideas of his team and doesn’t ignore it. He struggles maintaining good relationship with his daughters, mainly (probably, since I haven’t read the previous books) because of the nature of his job.

Daisy, the only surviving victim, is written with various shades. Rendell makes sure that Daisy isn’t easily understood. First, we see the shocked and physically worn out victim. Then we see Daisy with sympathy having lost her family. Daisy then turns as the sarcastic fighter of life. Then a loner. She then turns confused and mysterious. With her statements about the incident turning unsatisfactory, we along with the police get a tingling that may be she is hiding something. This sets the suspense needed for the story.

Yet, I didn’t feel completely satisfied when I put down this book. The excitement which was gathered through more than half way through the book began to sink slowly. As I mentioned before, all the characters and details were regularly mentioned, it actually became too repetive that the story began to stretch with no progress. Also, one of the major revelations for this story is how this massacre is connected to Martin’s murder. This connection was too very weak. Even the revelation by Wexford when he gives a Poirot like speech lacked the punch needed. I didn’t quite understand the reason for the title of the book till the end.

Having said this, a pat on the back to the author because I wasn’t able to guess the murderer correctly or the motive behind the murders.

I wouldn’t strongly recommend this book for two reasons. One, I am sure there are better books from the same author. Two, it’s an old publication and hence there are lot more better choices than this one.

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