The best of Ruth Rendell's thirteen Barbara Vine novels (a fourteenth will be added this year) in my view all have the richness and depth of works by such great masters of Victorian sensation as Wilkie Collins and Mary Elizabeth Braddon. And the sixth Barbara Vine novel, the 437-page Asta's Book (1993) (Anna's Book in the United States*), surely is one of the very best Vines--indeed, it is positively sensational! Asta's Book succeeds both as a fascinating, teasing mystery and a sophisticated, immensely moving character study.
In addition to Asta's diary entries and Ann's narrative, there is also an additional section of the book dealing with a famous murder trial. More about this cannot be said, for so much of the great pleasure of Asta's Book is the page-turning thrill of simply having to find out just what happens (or happened) next. One has to be careful not to say too much. Such is the skillful construction of this novel that it functions brilliantly both as a work of suspense and a fair play mystery (the succession of revelations at the end all are genuinely clued).
|read those pages closely, |
Though I don't have a ten favorite mysteries list, if I did it would be hard to see Asta's Book not being on it!
|American paperback edition|
The next installment of The Passing Tramp will explore a genuine Victorian sensation novel, Benjamin Farjeon's Great Porter Square. Like Asta's Book the piece will be a double tale, telling about both the book and its owner, who in the book's pages made the most extensive marginal notes that I have ever seen in a novel. Here is an opportunity to learn not only about a Victorian mystery novel but also a Victorian mystery novel reader! See you soon!
|this dog is not in the book--really!|