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Portobello

3.30  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,950 Ratings  ·  327 Reviews
On a shopping trip, Eugene Wren came across an envelope containing money. Rather than report the matter to the police, he wrote a note and stuck it up on lamppost near his house: found in Chepstow Villas, a sum of money between 80 and 160 pounds. Anyone who has lost such a sum should apply to the phone number below.
Hardcover, 278 pages
Published 2008 by Hutchinson
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Barbara
Dec 23, 2010 Barbara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
As always, if you expect a synopsis of the plot, you are not going to find it here. You may check Goodreads for that!

Ruth Rendell possesses two admirable attributes- the art of elegant prose and a powerful imagination. Her novels, both by Rendell and her pseudonym, Barbara Vine, all reflect these valued qualities. Without her intelligent, informed insights,she would be unable to develop her colorful characterizations and her complex plots. It is a wonder that she has been able to produce such a
...more
Ian
Jul 29, 2011 Ian rated it it was ok
I've read every work of fiction that Ruth Rendell has published but I have to say that I was terribly disappointed with this latest effort. The initial premise I found flawed. Wealthy guy finds a quantity of cash in the street and instead of handing it in to the police or simply pocketing his lucky find, he advertises the fact on neighbourhood lamposts as one would when searching for a missing cat. Not only does this seem unlikely but he is described as private and secretive, yet he lists his ho ...more
J.
Softly sketched, disarmingly rendered, but a knockout.
Unassuming round-table-of-characters mystery, sifts a lot of dissimilar layers and keeps going. Part of the beauty here is watching an intentionally tipsy narrative gathering all threads toward the center and then convening for a moment, only to unravel outwards again.

Broadly disparate lives interact, confront, fracture and repair along the course of the telling here. Rendell is by now a past master of the art of shuffling character & n
...more
Jennifer
Feb 04, 2012 Jennifer rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery, fiction
I was pretty disappointed with this book. I love reading Rendell's Inspector Wexford series, and I was eager to read more of her work away from that formula and character. Unfortunately, in spite of Rendell's skill as a writer, this was just a boring book. I could not become interested in even one of the characters whose lives skim together to keep the minimal plot moving forward.The first character we meet has an addiction to sucking on sugarless sweets. Right away I disliked this character and ...more
Teresa
Dec 18, 2010 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had been disappointed in the most recent Rendell/Vine novels (I'm not counting her Wexford books which I don't read) but I'm pleased to say she's back at the top of her game with this one. There's no gimmicky ending, which is what I found in The Water's Lovely, and the voices of her characters are true, something I found lacking in The Birthday Present.

In many ways, this is a novel of addiction; and while being inside the head of one character got a bit repetitive at times, that is the nature
...more
Mark
Aug 31, 2011 Mark rated it really liked it
I'm continually amazed at Ruth Rendell's ability to produce quality fiction both under her own name and as Barbara Vine. Nobody writes about obsession better than Rendell. She has a particular gift of making the most everyday of activities brim with menace. She also has a unique ability to create fascinatingly odd but knowable characters who are connected in a seemingly random way and play them out in each others lives (even without knowledge of each other) with often tragic always compelling wa ...more
Susan
Jun 28, 2012 Susan rated it it was amazing
Now here's an author who can interweave different storylines and really make it work! I love Rendell's stand-alone fiction. Not crazy about her Inspector Wexford series, which is beter-than-usual British police procedural, but I have read with gusto most of her stand-alone novels. Most of them involve ordindary - really really ordinary - people caught up by happenstance in extraordinary circumstances and the stories unfold and weave together expertly and tantilizingly. So much so, that I find my ...more
Kim
Oct 21, 2010 Kim rated it liked it
This was a distinctly odd book. Starting out, I didn't think that I was going to like it at all and I ended up liking it quite a bit.

The chocolate-orange mint addiction drove me crazy at first- both because it seemed so absurd in a 'serious' book and because I started CRAVING them. I ate about 15 sugar free Werther's while reading this book! She goes on and on about them. And after awhile, I realized that that was the point - Eugene is obsessed with them and so, when Eugene is part of the story
...more
Kirsten *Dogs Welcome - People Tolerated"
First off, Tim Curry is an INCREDIBLE narrator!

Now, let's get to the book. This was a wonderfully atmospheric novel. The characters were alive and vibrant. Even the ones committing crimes you were sympathetic with. The interconnectedness of the area of Portobello really came alive.

To me, I always remember the song from Bedknobs and Broomsticks "Portobello Road" as performed by David Tomlinson.

The characters in this one are so much fun, crazy, neurotic, and wrapped up in their own lives. After
...more
☯Emily
This book was required reading in an NYU course on female writers of detective fiction. Well, the writer is female and she does write some books with a detective, but this is not one of them. I asked the professor if she had read the book and she said no. I guess that shows how prepared she is for the class!

Portobello is a street and neighborhood which surround this London street. This book looks at several people who live, work or roam the area. One is wealthy with a candy addiction, one is a f
...more
Barth Siemens
Mar 13, 2015 Barth Siemens rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I thought that I would be reading a crime fiction. At 32 pages, I have only seen intricate character descriptions. This marks the first time that I have considered the negative side of the word intricate. I chose that adjective because it was on the dust cover, and I cannot be bothered to think any more about this work.
Karen
Mar 28, 2016 Karen rated it it was amazing
The story begins when a man finds an envelope full of money along London's Portobello Road and decides to post a notice, urging the owner to contact him. Like all of Ruth Rendell's books, this one is filled with an array of quirky characters --- a rich, fifty-year-old man who leans towards addictions, the latest being for a particular sugar-free sweet; his doctor fiancee who makes house calls to a strange young man who lives in darkness and may be possessed; another young man who hasn't worked a ...more
Yvonne
Aug 16, 2015 Yvonne rated it liked it
My fourth Ruth Rendell. I feel like the character Eugene Wren in this book who is addicted to Chocorange candies (sweets as they say in England). Eugene is obsessed with this sugarless sweet, he eats them so he won't eat between meals, but all of a sudden it's a slippery slope and his cravings grow stronger over time.
Is it the same for me and Ruth Rendell? As soon as I finished Portobello I was relieved to know I have another Rendell at hand, ready to crack open later today! It's the season for
...more
melissa
Feb 16, 2009 melissa rated it liked it
This book wasn’t as dark and scary and mysterious as I had hoped. I heard many things about Ruth Rendell (but this was my first to try and read her), and this didn’t seem to fit the description of her type of writing. I was wondering if I had got my authors mixed up, but then I read other reviews that said this wasn’t typical of her style.

I found this book a tough start. The first night I tried to read Portobello it was late, and I had to put it down and sleep, I couldn’t follow it at all. The
...more
Kiera Healy
Mar 14, 2013 Kiera Healy rated it liked it
My mother has been a big fan of Ruth Rendell for a long time, but this was the first of her novels that I read. Sadly, it is by all accounts not very representative of her body of work. Rather than a murder mystery, it's an ensemble piece about a group of loosely-connected characters in the Notting Hill area, ranging in class from petty criminals to affluent art dealers.

I didn't care for the opening chapters, which reminded me a lot of another book I finished recently, Sebastian Faulks' painful
...more
Carolynne
Apr 12, 2011 Carolynne rated it it was ok
Shelves: england
Not one of her Inspector Wexford mysteries, _Portobello_ describes several unattractive characters who unexpectedly interact: a handsome gallery owner hopelessly addicted not to drugs or drink but to a seemingly harmless sugar-free sweet; his middle-aged fiance, just this side of desperate; a hapless petty criminal, longing for love, who gets falsely arrested; his inamorata, who makes love to one man but lives with another, whose single virtuous act brings catastrophe; the vicious ex-con uncle w ...more
Lori
Dec 19, 2012 Lori rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: someone with nothing else to do and nothing better to read
Shelves: british, 2012
I picked this up at the library on my last vacation. A free book to read while on vacation that I didn't have at home so I ditched the couple of reads I brought with me (I can read those when I get home) and read this instead. I have never read Ruth Rendell and the cover touted her as a "reigning queen" of crime fiction and the premise interested me so jumped in. Set in London's Notting Hill and featuring Portobello Road, a middle-aged art dealer finds an envelope full of cash one day and attemp ...more
Carol
Jun 25, 2011 Carol rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Excellent story of the intertwined lives of residents of this London village. Lance is a poor young thug who robs tourist, steals from houses and longs for his girlfriend Gemma,offers much of the comic relief to an existence that otherwise might seem gloomy. Gemma a single young mother, dumps Lance after his punches her in the face and takes up with another criminal, Feisal. Eugene, wealthy an art dealer loves a doctor Ella but hides his shameful secret addiction to sweets. Uncle Gib, Lance's ch ...more
Bookmarks Magazine
Although Portobello may not be crime master Ruth Rendell's best book to date, this work of psychological suspense -- about obsession, random connections, and the frailty of wealth -- nonetheless captivated most critics. As always, Rendell pens an enjoyable, intelligent work; here, Portobello Road, which links people and events, takes center stage as a "living thing: it squeezes, snakes, climbs and dips, and by the end of the book even 'draws breath'" (Times). Yet if Rendell's Portobello Road com ...more
Kasey Jueds
Dec 29, 2010 Kasey Jueds rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, mystery
I love Ruth Rendell so incredibly much that it's hard to step back and say exactly why. Partly I think it's because her books are both plot-driven (they're total page turners) and character-driven (I'm always drawn into the characters' lives and able to find sympathy for them, even the most evil/depraved/unsympathetic ones). Partly because they contain the most compelling elements of classic mysteries, and yet at the same time they're completely unlike any other mysteries I know. Partly because ...more
Chris
Jun 10, 2014 Chris rated it it was ok
This is more a psychological study than anything else. It almost has a feeling of lacking an overall plot outside of what happens to the interconnected lives of the people. I think it would work better as a television show. Good sense of place, and many of characters do breathe. Just wanted a little something more from it.

Crossposted at Booklikes.
Jill Hutchinson
Feb 21, 2011 Jill Hutchinson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ruth Rendell knows how to weave a complicated story out of a few simple actions by unrelated persons. Another tale by this British master of mystery.....but it is really not a mystery but a novel of dark doings, obsessions (real or imagined) and colorful, complex characters. The story takes place in London's Portobello Road, home to one of the world's great street markets and a polyglot of nationalities where the affluent and non-affluent live side by side. The characters, representing both side ...more
Lindy
Oct 05, 2015 Lindy rated it really liked it
Recommended to Lindy by: Sarah Trowbridge
Wild book - I kept thinking something absolutely terrifying and horrible was going to happen - what rich foreboding and tension she builds into this work. This was my first Rendell. I want to read more.
Richard
Sep 28, 2010 Richard rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes a well crafted tale.
Recommended to Richard by: I read all her work.
What a curious story linking together several people who should have nothing in common, except it turns out they do: assault, burglary, arson, and ultimately, murder.

The character development is slow but deliberate. By the end of the book, you know these people. The crimes are carried out with the lack of forethought that typifies most petty criminals and succeeds, to the extent that it does, quite by accident. The coincidences tying all these disparate folk together is totally believable, as is
...more
Margaret
Ruth Rendell is one of my favorite authors and I read this book in a day. I don't know why but there was something intriguing about this book that kept me wondering what was going to happen to these characters. Would Eugene ever kick his Chocorange habit? Would Lance ever get out of his uncle's house and make something of himself? Would Gemma get back together with Lance? Plus the quirkiness of Uncle Gib and Ella's private patient, Joel. I thought this was a well-done psychological study of char ...more
Maria
Dec 27, 2010 Maria rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is such a sympathetic psychological "study" of disparate wacky characters I was completely disarmed. One character, proper Eugene, is surely an original and thoroughly, entirely sympathetic even in his obsessive insanity, and Lance, the pathetic, wanna-be criminal, straight out of Hook's Lost Boys. And they're on the loose in Notting Hill in a superbly plotted little novel. I've read only one other of Rendell's, Brimstone Wedding, and Portobello far surpasses it in my opinion for its wonder ...more
Lesley
Mar 22, 2016 Lesley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ruth Rendell novels can be very hit and miss, but when she gets it right, you just cant put it down. Portobello is such a book. An intriguing story of madness and addiction, of petty crime and violence.
Eugene's "addiction" is a stroke of genius, funny, and at the same time dreadfully sad, he cannot stop himself from eating these sugar-free sweets, and yet, he seems to want the secrecy and the compulsion that comes with it, rather than the addiction itself.
One minor criticism I would have (and
...more
Nick
Jul 27, 2015 Nick rated it liked it
A very complex group of characters....most of whom are very unlikable. But I still wanted to find out what happened to them all, and see how they'd connect. Not my favorite novel by the late great Ruth Rendell, but a good read nonetheless.
Judith
Dec 31, 2008 Judith rated it really liked it
Shelves: adultfiction
My annual after Christmas summer reading ritual almost always involves a new Ruth Rendell novel. This year was no different; I bought Portobello with the bookshop gift card my sister gave me for Christmas and read it over a couple of days. It's good--not Rendell's best, and not nearly as creepy as so many of her books are, but nicely structured and with her usual nuanced characterisation.
Jacqueline Rodriguez
This was a good novel, but I was expecting more of a mystery, so I was disappointed. I think had I gone into the novel knowing it would be a sort-of slice of life of this group of people in this place, I would have enjoyed it more. Rendell is an excellent writer and she does a great job of writing characters that are believable and realistic.
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A.K.A. Barbara Vine

Ruth Barbara Rendell, Baroness Rendell of Babergh, CBE, who also wrote under the pseudonym Barbara Vine, was an acclaimed English crime writer, known for her many psychological thrillers and murder mysteries and above all for Inspector Wexford.
More about Ruth Rendell...

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