Anne Robinson, Karen Saxby
No doubt Tigerlily’s Orchids will start the customary Ruth Rendell debate. Rendell aficionados take great pleasure in debating which are her finest books -- the much-loved Inspector Wexford series or her disturbing stand-alone psychological crime novels. This latest book is firmly in the latter camp, and for those (such as this writer) who – on balance -- prefer Rendell moving out of police procedural territory, it's a real treat.
A housewarming party for a new flat is usually a pleasurable experience, but the one thrown by the unworldly Stuart Font is to have unwanted consequences. Stuart invites everyone in his building to the bash, even the caretaker and his wife – people, Stuart finds, it is hard to warm to. The party turns out to be a memorable one for everyone involved – but for all the wrong reasons. The eponymous ‘Tigerlliy’ is an attractive young Asian women who is one of Stuart’s nearest neighbours (he was the one who gave her the exotic sobriquet); she does not however, conform to the stereotypical image of the powerless, vulnerable Asian woman. Her influence over those around her is to prove dark and all-enveloping, and Stuart’s parents will have reason to be concerned -- very concerned – for their hapless son.
The cruel wit of the narrative here is firmly in the unsettling territory of Rendell’s best work, and the sardonic note (as well as the fey, not-quite-naturalistic elements) are characteristic of the author's more recent efforts – the years are not softening her view of life. As usual, it is the sharp, quirky observation of character that makes Tigerlily’s Orchids so distinctive. The eccentric quality may not be to everyone’s taste – and it’s perhaps not a book for new Ruth Rendell readers to start with (one has to assume there will always be some), but admirers can part with their money with equanimity. --Barry Forshaw