He didn’t speak. He had never known how to talk to women. There was only one thing he had ever been able to do to women and advancing now, smiling, he did it. First he rested the torch on a brick ledge at the level of his knees so that she was in shadow, so that the room took on the aspect of an alley into which a street lamp filters dimly. Then he approached her paralyzed as she was, and meeting no resistance–he would have preferred resistance–he closed his hands on her throat (2)
Readers will view the movements of the eclectic tenants of 142 Trinity from the perspective of either of two Johnsons:
1. Arthur Johnson:
- borderline racist
- something of a psychopath*
- the longest residing tenant of 142 Trinity.
2. Anthony Johnson:
- young scholar
- writing a thesis on psychopaths
- having an affair with a married woman
- the newest tenant at 142 Trinity.
These two are not related; names are purely coincidence. Sometimes when two people share a surname, they bond or make jokes about relation or generally speaking, develop a good rapport with one another…this is not the case with these two Johnsons. They do not get along at all. There’s a weird space between them that is not natural to neighbors or people you might share a building with. This tension is a undiminished easiness that consistently feeds into the storyline because one of these Johnsons has a secret–he is the Kenbourne Killer.
This is the first book I’ve read by Ruth Rendell, but it will not be the last because what Rendell really champions is the character. She creates great beings that easily come to life from the page. And then she adds the right amount of horror and thrill to make for a worthwhile read. For example:
Once she was out of the house, he had gone and stood over the baby, scrutinizing it with curious desire. It was about six months old, fat, fast asleep…A napkin, white and fleecy, secured with a large safety pin, was now visible above its legging. Safety was a strange word to apply to so obviously dangerous a weapon. Arthur removed the pin, and taut now with joy and power, thrust it up to its curled hilt into the baby’s stomach. The baby woke with a shattering scream and a great bubble of scarlet blood welled out as he removed the pin (71)
There are lesser characters and smaller plot lines that contribute to this idea that outwardly each Johnson appears to be an everyday person in the community. But even the everyday person has their secrets and it’s only a matter of time before the Kenbourne Killer terrorizes the very community he hides in.
*potentially a sociopath….I’m not really sure. I may have the two confused.