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King Solomon's Carpet

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  1,338 Ratings  ·  80 Reviews
King Solomon's magic carpet is the London Underground, running past the disused old school building that houses the most ill-assorted covey that Vine (Ruth Rendell) has brought together since A Fatal Inversion for this updating of Conrad's novel of terrorist conspiracy, The Secret Agent.

Tom Murray is a promising musician reduced to illegal busking in Underground stations
355 pages
Published 1992 by Viking (Penguin Group) (first published 1991)
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I should have trusted my instinct (which was that I wouldn't like another Barbara Vine book) but I was fooled by the blurb saying it was a modern-day take on Conrad's Secret Agent which I enjoyed immensely. Now that I have finished, I can somewhat comprehend that description but while Conrad's story thrilled & fascinated me, this one mostly bored me. It is a "psychological thriller"; apparently that means it is about people's thoughts & emotions with very little action (and most of that ...more
Mar 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: v, 2017

King Solomon's Carpet is a prize-winning crime classic from bestselling author Barbara Vine
Winner of the Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger Award

'The tension grows ... an overwhelming sense of foreboding ... when the unravelling takes place, it is brilliantly unexpected and original' The Times

Jarvis Stringer lives in a crumbling schoolhouse overlooking a tube line, compiling his obsessive, secret history of London's Underground. His presence and his strange house draw a band o
Aug 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
When I first started reading this book I was interested, then I lost my interest but kept reading and then BOOM, I was hooked. A very unusual story with a cast of misfit characters living in an old schoolhouse where the owner Jarvis, rents out rooms to people in need.
The school is situated on a rail line(s) and the school house shakes when the trains roll by. Jarvis is obsessed with the London Transportation System, aka the subway or 'tube' system. He is so obsessed that he is writing the histo
Feb 13, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-british
If you have ever been in any underground system then you know the mystery. Okay, maybe it lacks the history of London’s – for instance, my city’s underground system(s) has never been used as a bomb shelter - , but it has many similarities – “lost” stops, a schedule only a psychic can figure out, a what is that smell feel, an in comprehensible map.
You get the idea

King Solomon’s Carpet is book where the subway system plays an important part. In fact, it’s the central character. Don’t let the blu
Dec 16, 2015 rated it liked it
This book takes the reader on a weird, meandering nightmare of a journey through the eyes of a group of misfits living in a decrepit former school house in North London. Far creepier than the characters in A Fatal Inversion, here Vine gives us a loner who smells of rotting meat due to the hawk he dotes on, a violinist who has abandoned her husband and baby daughter, a narcissistic musician potentially brain damaged following a road accident, and the sinister Axel Jonas, who travels the tube lead ...more
Roz Morris
Feb 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shame on me, but I've never read either Ruth or her alter ego Barbara. Crime fiction, RR's usual genre, doesn't get me excited at all. But a friend recommended this... and I'm so glad she did.
First of all, it's steeped in the mysteries of the Underground - I'm a real London Tube freak. Second, the lady has earned her golden daggers and whatnot. Interesting, conflicted characters who get their hooks into you and you want to get back to. Terrific descriptive passages - either of the minutae of a
Karen Gygli
Jan 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I have read Ruth Rendell's novels, and those under her pen name Barbara Vine. Like The Bridesmaid, I found this novel quite bleak and gothic, and yet, also like The Bridesmaid, I couldn't stop reading it. The author takes us into the lives of broken families, disturbed and frightened runaways, and musicians who busk on the London Underground wondering if they've thrown away their last chance to be great. Along the way, the reader learns a lot about the London Underground and is treated to some o ...more
Aug 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who is interested in psychological novels or in the London Underground.
Recommended to Rae by: Sarah Knowler
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Antony Bennett
Jan 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
I loved the fact that some history of the London Underground is interspersed with the plot in this novel - I don't know why, because I don't live in London, but I've always found stories about the tube's background fascinating. The novel has several characters all somehow connected with an old school house converted into an eccentric boarding house. For me the best and easily the most affecting story was that of Cecilia and her best friend Daphne - I would have been happy to read that on its own ...more
Sep 18, 2011 rated it liked it
Ehh...not nearly so good as Barbara Vine's other stuff I've read. As you readers might know, VIne is the name that Ruth Rendell sometimes uses. I much prefer A DARK-ADAPTED EYE which was the very first time I "met" Ms. Vine/Ms. Rendell. My favorite Ruth Rendell remains A JUDGEMENT [sic] IN STONE, a crime novel about illiteracy. I love it!
Jul 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Another excellent book from Barbara Vine, with many of her signature elements that I listed in my review of 'House of Stairs' namely an unusual household arrangement of quirky characters, and a sense of foreboding throughout. This one also has the unique concept of the main 'character' not being a person, but the London Underground. As chance would have it, although I rarely have cause to visit London, while I was reading this book I needed to spend a day there, using the Tube, and it certainly ...more
Sep 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Listened to this on audio as part of my project to read through all of Ruth Rendell's books written as Barbara Vine. Her writing is superb, her characters skillfully drawn. Her plots typically involve a big cast of characters, some sympathetic, some less so. The sense of place is always strong-- in this case it was a London house and the whole London Underground. There is always something sinister going on but it takes a while to figure out exactly what that is. Why aren't there more of them on ...more
Jayne Charles
Jul 24, 2011 rated it it was ok
The blurb on the back of this book stated that 'towards the end the tension is almost suffocating'. Absolutely true - I was experiencing considerable tension as I wondered if I had spent £7.99 on a book in which nothing was actually going to happen. So much time was spent creating 'atmosphere' that the plot was all but forgotten. A bit too arty and up-its-own-backside for my liking.
Apr 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The closest author out there to come close to matching Donna Tartt. This book reminded me a lot of The Secret History, though it's not quite as long. Beautifully written and superbly done. The characters stay with you long after reading.
Apr 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
Not Vine/Rendell's best effort. The story was dragged out, too many characters, many that had no connection to the core storyline and a weak plot.
Mar 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: to-listen
Superb - no one can convey an intense feeling of dread or portray broken people like Rendell.
Tim Fargus
Feb 01, 2015 rated it liked it
The last 50 pages or so were quite compelling, but it took so damn long to get there.
Sep 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Barbara Vine's universe is a morally ambiguous one. Her characters are flawed, often severely, and they make decisions based on self-interest, a jumble of uncertain values, or misguided emotion. In "King Solomon's Carpet" one of the elderly characters reflects on the confusion and darkness of a world where the values of a previous generation no longer seem to matter ... she's perplexed, confused and even frightened by people having children out of wedlock, not knowing for sure who the fathers of ...more
Author sets and maintains a remarkably creepy atmosphere. It sucks you in even if you think you don't like the book.
From the back of the book:

Jarvis Stringer lives in a crumbling schoolhouse overlooking a tube line, compliling his obsessive secret history of London's Underground. His presence and his strange house draw a band of misfits into his orbit; young Alice, who has run away from her husband and baby: Tom, the busker who rescues her: trunt Jasper who gets his kicks on the tubel and mysterious Axel, whose dark secret later casts a shadow over all their lives.

Dispossessed and outcast, those who come to i
May 27, 2008 rated it it was ok
After enjoying The Chimney Sweeper's Boy and A Dark-Adapted Eye so much, I was really looking forward to reading this one. It has some great reviews online, with fans saying it's their favorite Barbara Vine etc etc. Perhaps I should have learnt from Grasshopper that Vine's genius is somewhat hit-and-miss, but I did not and my expectations were high. I was horribly disappointed.

What I usually love about Vine is the way she begins her books with a secret, and then slowly drip-feeds the reader fact
Mar 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
I have no idea why this book is relegated to the mystery section. Yes it is a bit mysterious but it isn’t one of those police procedurals. Barbara Vine (a.k.a. Ruth Rendell) has a macabre sense of humor, maybe justice as a side dish. She builds up the characters while the story is somewhat peripheral. The characters have apparent flaws, even the self-described madman reading Nietzsche with implied superman rant, are reasonably well developed albeit I could not particularly relate to any them. I ...more
alessandra falca
Strano questo libro di Ruth Rendell (alias Barbara Vine), strano perché mi ero fatta un'idea ed invece la cara Ruth mi ha spiazzato raccontandomene tutta un'altra. Non era il primo libro che leggevo della Rendell, era invece il mio primo libro a nome Vine e non ne sono rimasta delusa. E' un libro corale dove tutti i personaggi: molti e variegati, sembrano seguire le linee della metropolitana di Londra che è la vera protagonista (insieme a tutte le altre metropolitane del mondo) del libro stesso. ...more
Oct 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Vine's psychological mysteries (or are they purely suspense?) are always a good read - this one suffered from the huge amount of added-in information about the London Underground. Some of that was interesting, but it dragged the action down to a stop at times when it shouldn't have.

The characters here are a curious mix of apathetic, pathetic and impulsive. Take Alice: after one impulsive move (leaving her husband and child), she gets stuck in an apathetic rut of living in the School, busking, p
Nov 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not exactly a thriller but I really liked it

An old school situated in close proximity to the London Underground is the setting for the majority of this story. The school is owned by a man engaged in writing a book about the history of the underground systems of the world. For income, he rents rooms to a host of odd tenets, each with their own curious story. "Psychological Thriller" is a bit of an overstated description of this book. While each of the characters has some peculiarity, and the stor
Not sure whether I liked or disliked this book. To be honest I really wasn't sure where it was going for a very long time. Clearly my interest was held enough (just) to get past the 200 page mark at which point I started to find the thing a bit more interesting. But having said that I really was just more curious as to what story, if any was actually going to come out of the preceding couple of hundred of pages that seemed to just describe the daily events in the lives of a small number of chara ...more
Jill Hutchinson
Ruth Rendell, writing as Barbara Vine, certainly fills her books with strange, dark, and twisted people!!! This story deals with the London Underground (the Tube) and the various obsessions that the characters have with it. The focus of the story revolves around a group of disparate young people who reside in an old school with a tragic past and their relationships with each other and the Underground. You are never sure where the story is going but it wraps up most of the questions in the last t ...more
S. Noël
Apr 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
One reason I enjoy this woman's books so much is her prose style. I don't exaggerate when I say she reminds me of Joseph Conrad, fitting since this novel refers to The Secret Agent. Her diction and smooth sentences draw one in to this gloomy, foreboding novel about a group of lost souls living in a disused old school. It's true it's slow at first, but Barbara Vine's/Rendell's skill with characterization persuades one to have a little sympathy for her creations, wandering people whose lives rotat ...more
Infame Descalzo
Bien, varios personajes en este librito. Primero, mi amada Cecilia, una vieja inglesia thatcheriana que al final es... ¡En tu cara Thatcher! Tenemos a Jarvis, que parece que al principio es el protagonista, pero más bien es un elemento "aglutinante" de las historias centrales, que yo incluiría en Jasper, Alice, Tom y Axel. Hay más personajes, que al principio me costó acordarme, por ejemplo, Daphne, Tina, Bienvida (¡qué nombrecito!), Jed, el hombre-oso del subte de Londres... Cada uno tiene su m ...more
Vine's books are always more about the who and why rather than the how and this also has that emphasis on character. However, this story about an assortment of lonely and floundering souls sharing a house takes a very long time to get going. Jarvis, the owner of the house, is writing a book about the London Underground while his very young cousin Jasper is getting to know the system in very foolhardy ways. Their storylines end up being more interesting than that of the weird love triangle who dr ...more
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Pseudonym of Ruth Rendell.

Rendell created a third strand of writing with the publication of A Dark Adapted Eye under her pseudonym Barbara Vine in 1986. Books such as King Solomon's Carpet, A Fatal Inversion and Anna's Book (original UK title Asta's Book) inhabit the same territory as her psychological crime novels while they further develop themes of family misunderstandings and the side effects
More about Barbara Vine...

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