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A Judgement in Stone

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  5,555 ratings  ·  421 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
Paperback, 188 pages
Published January 4th 2000 by Vintage Crime/Black Lizard (first published May 2nd 1977)
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Average rating 3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,555 ratings  ·  421 reviews

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Bill Kerwin
Jun 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing

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
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: british
Revenge of the Deplorables

We have learned recently that the union of the illiterate and the evangelical is a powerful political coalition. As Rendell notes “illiteracy is a kind of blindness.” And evangelicalism is a form of egomania, a public selfishness that “is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.” The mashup of the two is a perennial phenomenon, but nevertheless it is surprising when it occurs... and somewhat dangerous. The ignorant leading the
Jun 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5000-2020
Short, smart and remarkably well written, Ruth Rendell turns things upside down by telling the reader exactly who is going to die and at whose hands right at the beginning of the book. All we have left to discover is why and the explanation is fascinating.

All the characters and their relationships are well drawn and the big house in the English village is the perfect setting. Best of all are the many occasions in the tale when the narrator tells the reader that the murders would never have occur
Jun 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A chilling, psychological portrait of a woman with no conscience, A Judgment in Stone is one of Ruth Rendell's best books. I have been reading a lot of mysteries lately, of my favorite sort, in which the why is the most important part. People fascinate me. Those who kill without remorse are unfathomable. Eunice Parchman is one such stone-cold killer.

Her reasons why, what lead up to the massacre and what finally tipped her over the edge are all rendered here. The murders are talked about from th
Christi M
Jun 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery, thriller
By the end of the first sentence we know that Eunice Parchman is the murderer. In truth, the first sentence is one of the best first sentences I have read in a book. It is clear, concise, and straight to the point. Not only do we learn who the murderer is, but we also know who she murdered and why. This novel does not question her guilt because that is clear. Nor does it question whom she murdered. What it does do is take a closer look at what led up to that moment.

This is a true psychological t
Rachel Hall
Apr 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although it is the opening line of A Judgement in Stone which is most widely known and reveals the murderer of the Coverdale family, it is perhaps Ruth Rendell's second sentence which speaks volumes about the murderess:
"There was no real motive and no premeditation; no money was gained and no security."

Written and first published in 1977, this tightly woven and suspenseful slice of eloquence is just over two-hundred-pages in length but it offers an excellent social examination of the class diffe
aPriL does feral sometimes
'A Judgement in Stone' by Ruth Rendell is an amazing psychological study of characters! While nominally a mystery, there really is no mystery. It is more of a study, or a dissection, of why a murder of several members of a family happens. The murderer had no intention or plan of committing the murders. The story reminded me of In Cold Blood. by Truman Capote because of the author's style of writing for this novel. But in Rendell's book the author shows and explains to readers everything, unlike ...more
Nov 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
RJ from the LBC
Jun 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
We know about the crime right from the opening pages: a man, his wife, and two of their children will be slain by their illiterate housekeeper and her friend, and we spend the rest of the short book learning how it happened and why, as well as the investigative aftermath. This short but sweet novel - one of Rendell's most noted books, adapted as a movie twice - is not for those with short attention spans or a need for lots of action and noise. The narrative is wonderfully patient and nuanced, po ...more
This was disappointing, given what huge fans some people are of her work! I was not excited about this letdown- I was really looking forward to cozying into this like a Christie, and I so so didn't get that. I did NOT understand the logic behind revealing the murder in advance and walking us through it. It took all suspense out of the novel. I guess it was meant to be kind of dramatic irony or something or some kind of weird anthropological study- which, see below-, but it did not work. Sucked a ...more
Karl Marx S.T.
Mar 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Nick Pageant
May 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
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.
Jun 06, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Judgment in Stone is really a character driven drama. Calling this a crime would be like calling a marital drama science fiction simply because one half of the couple happens to be a scientist. Genre does not decide what works but don't walk in with the wrong set of expectations.

It opens with the Coverdale family being gunned down by their housekeeper Eunice Parchman as they discovered she is illiterate and then goes on to show the circumstances leading to the tragedy. Eunice befriends a relig
Apr 27, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
S.P. Aruna
May 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: thriller-mystery
After hearing so much about Ruth Rendell, I was more than disappointed with this one, so I almost gave it only 2 stars. It is an eccentrically British psychological suspense novel, except there wasn't much suspense for me. The murderers are two middle aged women, one a lunatic, the other, the main character, a sociopath. Having read Patricia Highsmith's handling of sociopathic characters (the most famous being Tom Ripley), Ms Rendell's attempt falls way short of this standard.

What bothered me mo
Barbara H
Feb 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 Parchm
Apr 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Meh!! I can’t say I loved this at all. The narrator really annoyed me with the voice of one of the characters although I understood where she was coming from. As the majority of the reviews stated - the murderer is revealed in the first sentence or two of the story. I honestly thought there would still be a decent plot though. I was wrong. The bright side is that this is not a lengthy book so I didn’t have to suffer very long. Bottom line... don’t waste your time or money.
Sep 09, 2012 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 peop
Peter Swanson
Apr 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Excellent last paragraph to a compelling novel.
Bruce Beckham
Nov 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was half intrigued and half dismayed by the opening of this novel, because with little ado it tells you what is going to happen. To paraphrase, a newly appointed housekeeper, Eunice Parchman, will murder in cold blood her employer, his wife, and two of their children. Eunice is illiterate, and it seems this will prove to be the causal factor in the tragedy.

Clearly sociopathic, and with a backstory that includes the blackmail of neighbours and murder of her father (who lingered inconveniently),
Jun 13, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, crime
I feel a bit bad giving this book only 3 stars. This book is considered a great book by a great writer. If one is going against this Conventional Wisdom, it's probably sensible to ask oneself why.

This book was published in 1977. I have recently read several 21st century books that do this genre better. However, I am very conscious that they do it better by standing on the shoulders of a giant - Ruth Rendell. I suspect that if I - or, more realistically, someone who was my age/background in 1977
Jun 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: rendell
A Judgement in Stone by Ruth Rendell.

My review is not in accordance with the majority of reviewers as I did not like this story. The theme is illiteracy and how the illiterate go about their lives in secrecy and shame. That part of the story is more fact than fiction. The library I worked in had special programs for adults who could neither read nor write to help them with a teacher to learn those skills. Their names were never written down as their program was also kept hush-hush.
That being sa
I’m abandoning this book at the halfway point because I do not like it. Period. It started fairly strong, but the narrator (who?) proceeded to ridicule or criticize everyone in this book, from the well-meaning but naïve Cloverdales to the lonely, acne-spotted son Giles to the illiterate housekeeper Eunice to the prostitute-turned-evangelist Joan. I disagreed with several of this narrator’s “judgments,” particularly this one: “Friendship often prospers best when one party is sure she has an ascen ...more
Ann M
Dec 07, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Sep 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this, but I do think that it needs to be taken for what it is. Its really not a thriller or a suspense novel: there is no actual mystery to the story at all, so if that's what you're looking for you won't find it in here.

But as a psychological character study, it really works. It does seem a little dated, it was written in the 70's and it kind of shows - but that's unavoidable. I felt the characters & their relationships were very believable & even though Joan was a bit over th
Roger Pettit
Jun 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a very unique novel. The author tells the reader exactly who committed the murder, what the motive was and who the victims were, right in the first sentence. The result is that this isn't a mystery, but a psychological study of the characters involved (mainly the murderers) and a review of the events leading up to the fatal moment. It even reads like true crime, like it was a journalist recounting the events.

It is a chilling book, but there are some moments of humour (sometimes black hu
Kiwi Begs2Differ  ✎
What I like about this author is her ability to draw the most convincing and complex anti-heroes. Miss Eunice Parchman is a wonderful character, cold and deadly as a snake.
The reader knows that she murdered four members of the Coverdale family, this is revealed in the very first sentence, but as the drama unfolds, the suspense rises in a satisfying crescendo. The beauty of the novel is in the character study of the killer, revealing the reasons for the killings (bizarre but believable due to Re
Nov 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime
A rather grim character study of a killer. Rendell writes a few stories like this - how a deprived upbringing produces a sociopath. In this case, the main reason for the character's eventual orgy of murder and bloodshed was her illiteracy. The book starts out with a statement of fact, setting out the main events, in this case the murder of a whole family by their housekeeper. The rest of the book then details the events leading up to this. Although I haven't yet read it, I imagine it is a little ...more
Aug 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: bookclub, england, ill, murder
Not so much a mystery (the murderer is revealed on the first page), but Rendell has written a taunt, speedy character study with a driving plot. I don't know how she fit such a large number of well-fleshed out characters in 188 pages, but I was fascinated and repelled in turn. What a gem of a novel!
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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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