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A Judgement in Stone

3.93  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,419 Ratings  ·  198 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
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ebook, 208 pages
Published September 23rd 2009 by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard (first published 1977)
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Bill  Kerwin
Jan 14, 2016 Bill Kerwin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Often deemed the greatest work of one of the world's great crime novelists, A Judgement in Stone is justly famous for its arresting first sentence: “"Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write." But it is not often appreciated that, however straightforward and revelatory it may appear, this sentence—and the upper-class narrator who utters it—suggests an artful and deceptive interpretation of a socially complex crime.

Sure, Eunice kills because she is illitera
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Karl Marx S.T.
Aug 22, 2012 Karl Marx S.T. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ruth-rendell
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
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Nick Pageant
Aug 22, 2015 Nick Pageant rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book! It's not a mystery or particularly suspenseful, but it is a very interesting character study of a murderer. I think what I enjoyed most were the fully developed characters - nobody was fully good or bad, including the killer.
Tfitoby
Sep 15, 2012 Tfitoby rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hrf-keating-100
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
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Maria Thomarey
Jan 08, 2016 Maria Thomarey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Χρόνια μετα και το θυμάμαι ακομα
Cleo Bannister
Jun 19, 2014 Cleo Bannister rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, own
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
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Holly
May 03, 2014 Holly rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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Barbara
Apr 12, 2012 Barbara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, suspense
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
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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
Ritsa
Mar 13, 2009 Ritsa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Roger Pettit
Jun 02, 2015 Roger Pettit rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ruth Rendell, who died earlier this year, is widely regarded as one of the finest crime novelists of recent times. I understand that her final book, which she completed before her death, will be published this autumn. I have read a fair amount of her work and enjoyed most of it. I was slightly disappointed, however, with two of her most recent books - 'Tigerlily's Orchids' and 'The St Zita Society'. So I thought I'd try 'A Judgement in Stone', one of her early standalone psychological thrillers, ...more
Ken
Oct 22, 2011 Ken rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
THE
Jun 08, 2009 THE rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Iva
Jun 27, 2011 Iva rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Tasha
Oct 19, 2015 Tasha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller-mystery
My first Ruth Rendell in years, I think I only read one or two others but she has always remained on my radar...this book reminds me why. A great read and I love the creepiness of it. Although we know from the start what happens, it's the lead up to the event that is done so well. I'll definitely read more of this lady's stuff.
Bev
Jun 08, 2014 Bev rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-mystery, logos
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
Sandra
Jan 25, 2012 Sandra rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Laura
Jun 11, 2015 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Different....quite different and so it was very enjoyable. A psychological view into the murder of a family, where the characters of each of the players is exposed in exhaustive detail. Quite brilliant. The book was published in 1977 so somethings are a tad dated. Today of course one would probably diagnose Eunice with Aspergers Syndrome. In 1977 a cassette recorder was a fairly expensive newfangled machine. But it holds up. And the author's consideration that illiteracy and the shame and practi ...more
Laura
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.
Molly
Nov 05, 2012 Molly rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, library, book-club
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.
Sue Repasky
Early Rendell

This is early Rendell, and it shows in the clumsy form in which her narrative is set out. It is written like a magazine article about a true crime and lacks the subtlety of her later novels. Still, it hints at the genius to come as her career progressed, especially her uncanny ability to delve into the minds of the criminally insane (or in the case of many of her characters, the criminally sane, who somehow find themselves caught up in an inescapable web of murder and mayhem). Despi
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Mike Gabor
Jan 23, 2014 Mike Gabor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british-mystery
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.

No
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Dagný
Oct 09, 2011 Dagný rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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Melody Warnick
Jul 25, 2015 Melody Warnick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rendell is so good that she can tell you the killer, the victims, and the motive in the first sentence--and you'll read the book anyway, and love it.
Janice
Jun 03, 2015 Janice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Riveting story! While the killer was identified in the first line, trying to understanding the motive kept me turning pages until the end. The first line - "Eunice Parchman killed the Coverdale family because she could not read or write". The story that follows is a commentary on class, literacy, and the power of fate.
Elizabeth
May 19, 2015 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This fascinating book tells you what happens in the end but the process of getting there is both frightening and suspenseful.

I loved this book and am anxious to read more of Ruth Renell's books.
Rachel
Jun 03, 2014 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Marti
May 04, 2014 Marti rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jon
Jan 20, 2016 Jon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I doubt if this is the best book of one of the best mystery novelists, as some critics apparently think, I've nevertheless got to admire it. Rendell breaks all the rules in the first two pages: she tells us who the murderers will be, who the victims will be, and exactly when the awful event will happen. She removes any possible source of suspense and then dares us to quit reading. She then leads us step-by-step from the first meeting of the killers and victims, to the--as we know--inevitab ...more
Yvonne
Aug 07, 2015 Yvonne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
OMG, how did it take me so long to read Ruth Rendell? A Judgement in Stone is a great psychological thriller, unputdownable. The reader knows at the outset who was killed and who the murderers are.
But the question 'why' is what the reader needs to know the answer to. And so this strange and fascinating tale gets underway, moving ever closer to the events, as yet unknown, that result in the murder of four people.

Eunice Parchman can neither read nor write, and has hidden it from the world. Eunic
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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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