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TV on DVD: "The Ruth Rendell Mysteries Collection"

Half the fun of watching the newly released eleven-disc The Ruth Rendell Mysteries Collection is seeing some familiar faces--such as Colin Firth, James Callis, James D'Arcy, Amanda Redman, and many others--when they were significantly younger and, in some cases, were just embarking on their theatrical careers.

The other half is, of course, falling under the spell of the master mystery writer Ruth Rendell (who also publishes novels under the pseudonym of Barbara Vine). As a longtime Rendell fanatic, I was thrilled to learn that Acorn Media was releasing seventeen televised feature-length adaptations of Rendell's work--which aired in the UK on ITV between 1987 and 2000 (and on some PBS stations)--in a single, hefty box set.

Arriving under the title The Ruth Rendell Mysteries Collection, the box set collects such adaptations as Master of the Moor, Vanity Dies Hard, Going Wrong, The Secret House of Death, and The Fallen Curtain, to name but a few, as well as three Inspector Wexford adaptations--Simisola, Road Rage, and Harm Done--which star George Baker as the titular detective.

While Wexford is the only character to appear in more than one installment, each of the mysteries presented here shows off Rendell's skill as a master plotter, a vivid storyteller, and a precise hand at psychological terror in many cases, layering a sense of dread and fear throughout these stories. She's especially gifted at staging elaborate and unexpected twists on which the stories spin, giving each adaptation a sense of unpredictability and danger, both for the characters and the viewer.

While some of the action might seem slightly dated (the lack of mobile telephones in a few is a real tip-off), there's also something timeless and universal about the way in which Rendell handles crime and fear: depicting mortal anxiety, guilt, venality, shame, passion, jealousy, and rage in equal measure. In many cases, Rendell gets inside the heads of both victims and criminals alike, exploring just what it is inside some people that makes them snap and take another's life or why some people survive. Or don't.

Ultimately, this collection shows off Rendell's top-flight mystery skills and skillfully adapts her novels and short stories to perfection. With seventeen episodes, The Ruth Rendell Mystery Collection offers the perfect way to wind down an evening... or just the thing to keep you awake all night.

The eleven-disc The Ruth Rendell Mysteries Collection box set will be available for sale on Tuesday, March 16th for a suggested retail price of $99.99. Or pick one up in the Televisionary Store for just $89.99.


Hadley said…
There's nothing quite like a good, British mystery, especially a Ruth Rendell mystery!

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