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One Across, Two Down

3.66  ·  Rating Details ·  792 Ratings  ·  60 Reviews

Two things interest Stanley Manning: crossword puzzles, and the substantial sum his wife Vera stands to inherit when his mother-in-law dies. Otherwise, life at 61 Lanchester Road is a living hell. For Mrs. Kinaway lives with them now—and she will stop at nothing to tear their marriage apart. One afternoon, Stanley sets aside his crossword puzzles and changes all their live
ebook, 154 pages
Published July 1st 2009 by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard (first published January 1st 1971)
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mark monday
Sep 10, 2011 mark monday rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: murdertime
a Rendell specialty: ironic downward trajectories and the banality of drab lives. as always, she resists easy condescension. fascinating and darkly-hued, but at times the bleakness becomes almost formulaic. the "protagonist" Stanley is an often mordantly amusing creation, by turns sympathetic and repulsive. he is surrounded by women who are almost caricatured gargoyles. there is barely a mystery here, but rather a grim, non-thrilling psychological thriller. this early work by the author clearly ...more
Nov 08, 2015 Bandit rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My favorite Rendell read thus far, no small accomplishment, because I like her other books, but this one just hit a new note of excellence as far as psychological thrillers go. There once lived a family in an old shabby end of terrace house, a profoundly unhappy family and, as per Tolstoy's sage quote, unhappy in their own way. Quietly struggling on...a pathetic no good husband, a beaten down (worn out not punching bag style) wife and her difficult, overbearing mother. Enter a possibility of inh ...more
Aug 18, 2016 Claire rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this book, Ruth Rendell perfectly captures what it must feel like to do something horrible spontaneously and then spend a huge amount of time and energy covering it up and worrying about being found out. The anxiety is overwhelming and blots out any benefit one might have expected to receive. Super fast and engaging read with a satisfying ending.
I'm a huge fan of Ruth Rendell's suspense novels (as opposed to her Inspector Wexford mysteries, which I don't read as often) and always enjoy her crisp prose and wit. But this novel, from the 1970s, isn't as good as most, perhaps because none of the main characters are compelling. The main protagonist is Stanley, a no-good husband who wants his mother-in-law dead so he can finally put his hands on her money. These two enemies spar humorously, neither of them attractive to the reader, while Vera ...more
Sometimes it's nice to go to something early by a writer to remind oneself that the two of you did get on and it is only in more recent times that there has been a need to part.

The idea itself is nice: as Stanley descends into his breakdown, the only thing that keeps his tic at bay is crosswords. He is a ghastly creep for whom one nonetheless can't help feeling a little sorry. Rendell's good enough to do that. Read her early stuff, if you like this sort of thing, it is quite worth it.
Nov 29, 2007 Margie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, u-k
Compared to other crime writers, this is a great book. Compared to other Ruth Rendell books it's good, but not great. She does such a wonderful job of creating an interesting story even when there's no mystery involved; we know who did what to whom from the outset.
Apr 30, 2008 Lori rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish we had the option of 2.5 stars here. One Across. Two Down is not Rendell's best. With that said, it's still got that cozy creepiness that I love about her novels. Ne'er-do-well Stanley Manning is sick of his sad sack wife Vee (Vera) and shrill mother-in-law Maude. To make matters worse, Maude's longtime friend Ethel will be coming to stay with them, so Stanely will be subjected to a third nattering voice interrupting his already feeble concentration while he solves crossword puzzles and w ...more
Dec 24, 2016 Cindy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Choose this book as my 1971 birthday challenge read. It was ok, nothing great but a quick entertaining read. Not something you must read.
Nov 24, 2014 Liz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You could almost feel sorry for Stanley. His mother-in-law lives with him and his wife, Vera, in a small house, and Maud’s only goal in life seems to be to get her daughter to leave her husband. On top of that, she doesn’t lift a finger around the house, despite being in tolerably good health for her age, and she constantly reminds them of how much money she has in the bank, while contributing only meager sums to the household. But look a little closer, and maybe the cantankerous Maud is the mor ...more
Dec 21, 2014 Hal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read dozens of Rendell's books, and this early novel is one of her best. In general, I find I prefer her shorter books. I have no interest in the descriptive writing she drifts into in her later works, i.e., what kind of trees the characters walk past, and this engaging story is tautly written.

Rendell has an uncanny ability to drill down into her characters thoughts. Many writers can do this with a single protagonist, but Rendell seems to be able to do with her entire cast.

As is always t
Sep 07, 2008 Fee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found the murderer's mundaneness fascinating. This is not as complex as some of Rendell's other books, but it was hard for me to put down.
Jul 17, 2013 Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was really impressed with this book. Although the quality of writing seemed a slight step down at first after spending so long on Henry Handel Richardson, Rundell provides great passages of lively vividness and psychological realism. Much of the book is similar to the film adaptation I saw a number of years ago, Arvin Brown's _Diary of the Dead_, which was released only five years after the novel's original 1971 publication. As good as that film was, much of what was different about the novel ...more
Jill Hutchinson
Sep 18, 2016 Jill Hutchinson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
This is one of Rendell's first books and it is fun to read the liner notes which say "Rendell is the most skillful of the up and coming crime writers". Of course, she became one of the grande dames of British mystery writers.

In this compact little book, we find a clever plot which involves a man who doesn't like his wife, hates his mother-in-law who lives with them (the feeling is reciprocated), is basically a ne'er do well, and is obsessed with crossword puzzles. He discovers that his MIL has q
Allison C. McCulloch
Nov 17, 2008 Allison C. McCulloch rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mystery readers, Chabrol & Almodovar fans.
Recommended to Allison by: bought the book at a book sale
I have previously read Judgment in Stone and 13 Steps Down from Rendell, and I can say that this book was a little reminiscent of her other works, in regards to the structure of the story. I am glad I read 13 Steps Down first, as it was extremely similar but much better. Since I like La Ceremonie so much (the movie version of Judgment in Stone), I don't remember if the people going door to door to collect clothes for the church was in the book also, or just in the movie. That was one of the more ...more
May 18, 2011 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Layabout Stanley is good for nothing except solving and even composing crossword puzzles; certainly he's not good at holding down a job. He's stuck in a small house in London with his colourless wife Vera and his truly ghastly mother-in-law Maud, praying for the day when Maud will shuffle off this mortal coil and he and Vera -- which, in Stanley's mind, means just he -- can get their hands on Maud's money. On the day that Maud's if anything even ghastlier friend Ethel arrives to stay there start ...more
Sep 05, 2015 Verena rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
One Across Two Down by Ruth Rendell is a book I picked up from a Little Free Library. Having never read anything by this famous British mystery writer, I decided it was past time to become acquainted with an author who ranks with P.D James as highly respected and influential authors.

This 1971 book is a story about ne'er-do-well Stanley Manning and Vera, his subservient wife. Maud, his shrewish live-in mother-in-law and Ethel, another shrewish female relative who is coming to visit, promise to ma
Sep 18, 2012 Hope rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stanley Manning and his wife, Vera, live with Vera's mother, Maud, an impulsive decision made years ago and regretted ever since. There is never peace in the household: Maud and Stanley are forever at loggerheads- each annoys the other- while Vera works and barely supports the household.

Maud is determined to get Vera away from her 'good-for-nothing' husband. She dreams of a happy life in the countryside, living off Maud's savings. Stanley, however, is not so pleased. For one, it means he will n
Kitty Jay
Dec 27, 2014 Kitty Jay rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kitty by: Rosemary
One Across, Two Down is the somewhat mundane murder mystery of a distasteful husband, Stanley, who wants nothing more than to off his mother-in-law and inherit her money; the mother-in-law, Maud, who is disagreeable and constantly tries to convince her daughter to leave Stanley; and Vera, an overworked, retiring woman besieged by both her overbearing mother and negligent husband.

When Maud's friend, Ethel, comes to visit, events conspire to create a mystery that, intriguingly, does not rest on th
Kirsty Darbyshire
I picked up this Ruth Rendell because of the crossword theme which sounded interesting but actually found that the theme got a bit tedious. What was most interesting about it though was than it's now forty years old and the world has changed a lot in that time. It features one of the characters getting excited about buying her first fridge and washing machine, items I (nearly as old as the book is...) have trouble thinking about living without for very long!

It's not a mystery, it's one of those
Jul 15, 2009 Amber rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alexander Van Leadam
A typical case of crime and punishment becomes extended into a psychological treatment of drab life and failure. The dullness of the main characters, Stanley (from whose perspective most of the story is told) and Vera, as well as the long monologues that give depth to these characters are simultaneously what may appeal to the reader and cause disinterest. In general, nothing much happens. Even the deaths are either accidental or natural, although Stanley deserves to be punished for them and whil ...more
Connie N.
This book started out with great promise and I very much liked it throughout most of it, but I was very disappointed that the ending fell flat. Actually, the ending just sort of faded away with no real kick at all. The "murder" occurred early in the book, and I loved the strong development of Stanley and Vera as their relationship changed as their characters evolved their personalities due to circumstances surrounding the death. I think I'll try more from this author to see what else she has com ...more
This book is excellent! A FANTASTIC plot which was written very well.
The characters were very well created and portrayed. When I was reading the book, I found that when I would put it down I'd feel the characters still with me. Even though the reader is not supposed to like them, you can't help but want to see of them. The setting was also very well chosen.
Rendell didn't fall into the trap of crime fiction, and save all the fun and tension for the last few chapters. She managed to keep me comp
Sep 11, 2013 JodiP rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
M. Newman
Aug 02, 2014 M. Newman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, suspense
Stanley Manning is a lazy good-for-nothing with a shady past, who can’t hold on to a job and whose only interest is crossword puzzles and whose dream is to get rich. He lives with his downtrodden wife, Vera and her wealthy mother, Maud, a recent stroke victim who despises Stanley as much as he does her.
After Stanley realizes that his wife stands to inherit a large sum of money when Maud dies, the wheels begin to turn in his nasty little mind.
This often humorous novel is, as is typical of Rend
As always, Ruth Rendell writes such good psychological mysteries - she really gets into the minds of the characters. This did not disappoint - I loved the cruel and quirky mind of Stanley, who began to think in crossword puzzle lingo. Vera was very real as well - a person who grows from naivety to a confident woman making up her own mind. The interplay between Stanley and his mother-in-law Maud helped build the story and we saw the relationship for what it really was. An enjoyable page-turner.
This one is difficult. The story is a bit of a riff on The Tell-Tale Heart, which I love, but the protagonist here is often repulsive and only very occasionally sympathetic. The story is very suspenseful, perhaps too much so, and that combined with many unlikeable characters, and all of the major characters living very depressing lives, made it hard to continue at times. Still, it was interesting and wrapped up very well.
Feb 22, 2011 Jenifer rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Audio. I think that this may have been a very old recording. It seemed like it. Kind of technologically out of date - like an old movie. I thought this was a little boring and slow. I know Rendell gets accolades for creating that ordinary, desperate, mundane feeling, but I didn't get too big of a kick out of it. A little more mystery and action please!
May 04, 2014 Megan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I usually thoroughly enjoy what Ruth Rendell has to offer. This one, not so much. It was difficult for me to pin down a time period, I was confused at the end with a bit of a familial development, and finally, I was disappointed with the climax and the following resolution. Perhaps I am too used to a swift hammer of justice and a straightforward, "here's what happened" explanation of events.
Gary M.
Nov 14, 2012 Gary M. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book when I first read it many years ago and loved it just as much upon rereading the other week. It's all about character you see and good well developed characters always carry a story for me. There's also a lot of black humour and the chain of events that doom Stanley are as hilarious as they are tragic. A wonderful book.
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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.
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