"Piranha To Scurfy" by Ruth Rendell is a collection of short stories that are good for a rainy Saturday. Sometimes evident and sometimes unexpected, the stories all involve predictable characters with some unknown, unseen secret, which forms the foundation of the book.
Rendell writes of matters and events that happen to every one one of us, but also adds an unforeseen twist to the tale. Her style of writing is not very descriptive or intense; rather, she writes with a simplicity which only serves to heighten the tension in her stories. The stories are bizarre in a very subtle way - there is nothing palpably terrifying in her stories, but the slight psychological twisting of the knife at the end makes for suspenseful reading.
The suspense is drawn out, rather than being fast-paced, which means that the book may tend to get boring for vivacious readers. Characters are common people leading routine lives - perhaps this is what makes the story line so believable - and the reader can often enough place himself in a character's shoes. The stories read as a Hitchcock movie would proceed - the suspense is more real than the actual surprise; there is a general feeling of unease as compared to a sudden, unexpected shock.
Of the various stories, my favourites were "Walter's Leg", a tale of revenge; the title story, primarily for its extremely unusual title; and the concluding novella, which has some wonderfully-drawn characters and scenes. With eleven stories in the collection, this is well worth picking up the next time you're at a store.This article was first published on 10 Jul 2001.