Shoestring Reads: Tigerlily's Orchids by Ruth Rendell

Once again, I am here to share with you my latest library find. For I wish I had a room to fill with books from floor to ceiling, instead of these bare rented walls with paint whose wont is peeling. And my books would be the finest made, all hand-cut page and leather. Instead I trudge to libraries in frigid, rainy weather! Seriously though, I love libraries and without them, where would I be? They entertain for free --ok, I'll stop rhyming now, that last one was not intentional! And libraries certainly keep me from spending all my money at bookstores, for despite my tendency to emphasize fashion on this blog, few purchases give me as much pleasure as a new book. For more tips on how to best "shop" the library in lieu of buying out the bookstore check out my previous review In Search of the Rose Notes by Emily Arsenault

But enough of roses, on to Tigerlily's Orchids by Ruth Rendell!

The Plot (Spoiler free):

Tigerlily's Orchids pulls back the walls of London flat block Lichfield House to reveal the secret (and not so secret) vices, fears and fancies of its eccentric inhabitants. Rendell is primarily known as a mystery writer and Tigerlily's Orchids is not without its whodunits, but I would classify it more as a whydunit: why do people do the things they do, want the things they want...and why do we burn to know why? An ensemble character study full of interesting oddballs, the book is entertaining, witty and keeps you reading. One resident of Lichfield House is pursuing her lifelong dream of drinking herself to death, another is a professor who uses Milton's Paradise Lost as a divination tool and pines for the building's resident spinster. And if I've left you wondering about the meaning behind the book's beguiling title, well, you'll just have to read the book!

People who will like this book:
  • Fans of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City & Alexander McCall Smith's 44 Scotland series: while not originating as a serial, Tigerlily's Orchids has the same structure and feel. The POV and narrative alternates amongst the cast in a zippy soap opera fashion, and thus the book is great for the commuter in that it lends itself well to fits and starts. Kooky characters and twists & turns abound, though Rendell's work is most definitely a darker, more cynical take on the genre than either Maupin or McCall Smith's; the eleventh hour deus ex machina is more likely to be a devil. Still there is humor to be found at Lichfield house and the pleasure of rooting for some characters while booing others that makes this style of storytelling so inviting.  
  • Armchair detectives and all those who have ever indulged in games of let's pretend about the personalities and lives of their neighbors. 
  • Readers who enjoy psychologically probing, character-driven fiction in the vein of ZoĆ« Heller, Margaret Atwood and Margot Livesey.

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