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A Judgement in Stone

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  2,892 ratings  ·  149 reviews
What on earth could have provoked a modern day St. Valentine's Day massacre?

On Valentine's Day, four members of the Coverdale family--George, Jacqueline, Melinda and Giles--were murdered in the space of 15 minutes. Their housekeeper, Eunice Parchman, shot them, one by one, in the blue light of a televised performance of Don Giovanni. When Detective Chief Superintendent Wil
ebook, 208 pages
Published September 23rd 2009 by Vintage (first published 1977)
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Read because of the selection in the HRF Keating list of 100 best crime & mystery novels. I only got 30 pages in before getting far too exasperated to keep on reading.

It started off in a similar vein to one of those wonderful Simenon roman durs but quickly went downhill as I was introduced to the soon to be murdered family.

The main characters are all incredibly awful people and whilst I am a fan of reading about offensive people these were not the type for me. Keating described them as nice
Karl Marx S.T.
I discovered Rendell’s work when I was browsing The Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time. Many of her works are included on the list that I came to the realization of maybe she's that good. Since then, I became a fan of Mrs. Rendell after reading this particular title.

The story is about a wealthy family (wealthy in the sense that they’re all educated) who hires a spinster, Eunice Parchman to serve as their housekeeper. There isn’t much problem about her at first for the family starts to like their n
This is one of Rendell's most amazing, suspenseful books!

We members of Goodreads could scarcely imagine what it would be like to be unable to read. Much has been written about illiterate adults. We are aware of the efforts these people go to in order to conceal this deficit from those around them. Many have developed coping strategies or employ artifice. This book, written earlier in Ruth Rendell’s career, has deftly described such an individual, Eunice Parchman. It is especially interesting to
An amazing book by one of England's finest crime novelists. Very well-written, it provides one of the best observations of the British class system while keeping you at the edge of your seat! You actually know from the beginning what the conclusions will be (the first line of the book is "Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write") and yet, although it is not a classic whodunnit it keeps you addicted until the end.. She gives an incredible portrayal of a soc ...more
Cleo Bannister
The story itself is fairly short only 220 pages long with relatively short chapters designed to keep the pages turning at a fast rate.

Ruth Rendell starts this book with the words 'Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write.' giving the reader the murderer, the victims and the motive straight away, but this book kept me gripped as the story of Eunices early life, her work for the Coverdales and her friendship with Joan Smith, a zealot and wife of the village p
Count me amongst those who are not fans of this book. Ok, the characters were well drawn. Neither the characters nor the story were unbelievable. So, I guess that's good. And it was well written, in the sense that there was nothing trite or annoying.

But I didn't enjoy reading this book at all. I would actually go as far to say that it was an unpleasant experience. From the beginning, the reader is told the whole story: that Eunice kills the Cloverdale family because she is illiterate. I suppose
Ann M
This is well written but a bit heavy handed. I think it's interesting that an illiterate woman WHO IS ALSO ALREADY A MURDERER, can find solace with a nutjob fundamentalist who dresses like a whore and can conspire with her to commit murder, but I think the emphasis was too much on Eunice's illiteracy. The result is some of the reviews here actually say that the book shows how illiteracy can lead to murder. Actually, the book shows how having a shameful secret can lead a psychopath to murder (aga ...more
One Sunday evening on Valentine's Day, Eunice Parchmand and Joan Smith shotgun to death four members of the Coverdale family as they watch an opera on television. Ruth Rendell delves deep into the psychological nuances of the two cracked killers, and Rendell demonstrates that one illiterate character who interacts with one psychotic character can only end in a disaster. When Rendell sets up this thesis, then the rest of the novel becomes, more or less, "A Count Down to Mass Murder". This book is ...more
A book that would appeal to those who usually don't read mysteries. (That would be me.) It wasn't a cozy nor was the actual murder covered in more than a few paragraphs, which is good for the squeamish reader. It was more about class differences in England and small town life. A plot thread, told in the first sentence, was the murderess couldn't read or write, something she attempted to keep secret. Rendall can create a plot, characters and deliver a book that is similar to P. D. James. (And I s ...more
In a small town in England, "The St. Valentine's Day Massacre" has nothing to do with roaring twenties US gangsters. It was on February 14 that housekeeper Eunice Parchman killed four members of the Coverdale family, for whom she worked, while they sat in their living room watching a performance of Don Giovanni on television. The murder is announced at the start of the book, the build-up to why the family were murdered and how the crime was solved is the substance of this book. The direct reason ...more
Mike Gabor
On Valentine's Day, four members of the Coverdale family--George, Jacqueline, Melinda and Giles--were murdered in the space of 15 minutes. Their housekeeper, Eunice Parchman, shot them, one by one, in the blue light of a televised performance of Don Giovanni. When Detective Chief Superintendent William Vetch arrests Miss Parchman two weeks later, he discovers a second tragedy: the key to the Valentine's Day massacre hidden within a private humiliation Eunice Parchman has guarded all her life.

In Berhard Schlink's The Reader, we learn that former Nazi guard Hanna Schmitz is prepared to accept the responsibility of mass murder and a consequent lengthy prison sentence rather than admit to the shame of illiteracy. She abandons everthing to keep this secret. Rendell's chilling novel, on a smaller human scale, has similar elements: Eunice Parchman's is illiterate, secretive, and deadly. She is also, however, a psychopath (with an extremely unappealing persona) and an unquestionable misanth ...more
As the reader is greeted with the terrible de facto of a murdered family and the reason for it, namely the housekeeper's illiteracy, we have to move to the inextricable end. None of the usual hopes and pleas for mercy; not that I did not find myself pleading.
As the merciless coroner of why, Ruth Rendell knows exactly what missteps were made, how social miscues go about. But the larger and more frightening picture is of the coming together of two minds, the one of the housekeeper's, who has no s
Such a tightly-written detective novel. Even though you know who the murderer is on the first page and why they have committed the murder, you need to know the hows and the underlying whys and the answer to the question of "What factors conspired to have this event occur?" The psychology of the novel is very interesting, if perhaps a little dated now, as the novel was written almost 40 years ago. I think what I find most fascinating about this book is that it shows the reader how much we depend ...more
I wouldn't have been able to read this, I don't think, if the very first sentence hadn't told me some of the characters were murdered at the end. Not that I am bloodthirsty or anything. But it was very domestic and nothing much happened. I might have gotten bored if I didn't know I was watching somebody slowly go insane. It was a very mild book despite the murders. It just goes to prove that you don't have to have detailed violence to make you sad about death.
Oct 17, 2008 Claudia rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Ruth Rendell fans
Well, I love Ruth Rendell but this book tells you right on page one who is killed and who killed them. I find that a bit annoying in a mystery because half the fun is finding out who-done-it along the way. That said, the book was still enjoyable and best of all, short - 188 pp. Not my favorite Rendell but still worth the time.
I don't remember ever reading a book where, in the very first pages, the author said exactly who was going to be murdered, and when, and by whom and where and why, and then surprised and captivated me until the very last page. Ruth Rendell is something else.
I think Ruth Rendell has definitely improved as an author since this book was written. I kind of had to make myself finish it, to be honest. I

It was really disturbing, and quite frankly, a bit unbelievable. But then, people do commit murder for the oddest reasons.
I have spent the last year reading my way through Ruth Rendell's novels, and this is one of her best.
I am continually surprised and impressed by the variety of plots she devises.
The common thread in her books is the plausibility of what takes place.
In this novel -- as in most of her work -- the protagonist is someone who is damaged early in life and creates delusions to make sense of the world.
One of Rendell's strengths is the ability to show the reader how a number of different characters perc
Ruth Rendell really improves the mystery-thriller style of writing. In this book she starts the story showing the murderer at the beginning of the plot.
It was fine. I enjoyed the writing, but I didn't like the plot. It's billed as a psychological thriller. It was not thrilling.
I think Ruth Rendell is a brilliant writer. She takes the British murder mystery and turns it on its head.
Karen Shahbandi
I'm not a big fan of the mystery genre because the motives always seem obscure: 'why did they commit such a crime?' I will ask myself, and the answer to that is usually untenable or largely ignored in the process of revealing the perpetrator. With this book, you know who did it and to whom on the first page. Then Rendell takes you into the mind of a sociopath who is also illiterate, to see how she became that way and the consequences of it.

This should be a must read for anyone teaching literacy!
Illiteracy leads to murder?! Oh PLEASE!!! This book was originally published in the late seventies but seemed from a much earlier period. The reviews were quite good and Amazon had it on a list of a hundred must read mysteries. I do continue to read Amazon reviews but once again I'm asking myself why. The only good thing I can possibly say about this book is that it is quite short. I would not ever recommend this book to one single soul and am sorry I wasted even a short amount of time on it. Yu ...more
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Rebecca Martin
I'm on and off again with Ruth Rendell. I usually enjoy her books, but not always, though I have followed her Inspector Wexford series for years. Sometimes her non-series books leave me puzzled or, especially in her Barbara Vine (pseud.) books, the characters leave me completely cold and uncaring. So, except for the series, I am not a terribly dedicated follower. I recognize her dark imagination--far more wide-ranging than most writers (darker than P.D. James, for instance)--and her writing skil ...more
Allan MacDonell
Be alerted that Ruth Rendell starts off A Judgement in Stone with an enormous spoiler. In the opening sentence, Rendell reveals who kills who and why the killer murders those victims. This bold and deservedly confident gambit is the first in an uninterrupted series of reader-gratification spurts that pump audience delight into the novel from the initial 13 words to the ultimate paragraph. Rendell (recommended by my crime-fiction advisor, Ian Rankin) fills her 1970s English country village and ma ...more
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Yun Yi
"Eunice Parchman Killed Coverdole family because she could not read or write." This is the first line of the mystery fiction A Judgement Of Stone, by Ruth Rendell. So there is no mystery. But really, I read on with great interest, because what would be a greater mystery than "who done it", is "why done it".

Eurince Parchman is a illiterate by chance, or by misfortune. This "handicap" brings her shame, discomfort, and ultimately: fear. To avoid this fear, she is incredibly ingenious in handling "d
Janet Richards
I can't believe I read the whole thing.

I typically love Ruth Rendall, but the main character is this book is so unpleasant it was like torture reading about her. Usually - if there is an unpleasant character there is some redeeming or sympathetic quality of the person. No Eunice - she is awful. She is a total psychopath, having no feelings of remorse for her actions or affection for anyone in her life. You knew what happened from the very beginning, so the entire book was a detailed description
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A.K.A. Barbara Vine

Ruth Barbara Rendell, Baroness Rendell of Babergh, CBE, who also writes under the pseudonym Barbara Vine, is an acclaimed English crime writer, known for her many psychological thrillers and murder mysteries.
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