A Judgement in Stone by Ruth Rendell
English | 2020 | Mystery/Thriller > Crime > Pyschological | ePUB | 2.8 MB
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 William Vetch arrests Miss Parchman two weeks later, he discovers a second tragedy: the key to the Valentine’s Day massacre hidden within a private humiliation Eunice Parchman has guarded all her life. A brilliant rendering of character, motive, and the heady discovery of truth, A Judgement in Stone is among Ruth Rendell’s finest psychological thrillers.
Without admitting it even to herself, Jacqueline Coverdale liked handsome men and plain women. She got on well with Melinda but not so well as she got on with the less attractive Paula and Peter’s jolie laide wife, Audrey. She suffered from what might be called a Gwendolen complex, for, like Wilde’s Miss Fairfax, she preferred a woman to be “fully forty-two and more than usually plain for her age.” Eunice Parchman was at least as old as herself, very likely older, though it was hard to tell, and there was no doubt about her plainness. If she had belonged to her. own class, Jacqueline would have wondered why she didn’t wear make-up, undergo a diet, have that tabby-cat hair tinted. But in a servant, all was as it should be.
In the face of this respectful silence, confronted by this, to her, entirely prepossessing appearance, Jacqueline forgot the questions she had intended to ask. And instead of examining the candidate, instead of attempting to find out if this woman were suitable to work in her house, if she would suit the Coverdales, she began persuading Eunice Parchman that they would suit her.
“It’s a big house, but there are only three of us except when my stepdaughter comes home for the weekend. There’s a cleaner three days a week, and of course I should do all the cooking myself.”
“I can cook, madam,” said Eunice.
“It wouldn’t be necessary, really. There’s a dishwasher and a deep freeze. My husband and I do all the shopping.” Jacqueline was impressed by this woman’s toneless voice that, though uneducated, had no trace of a Cockney accent. “We do entertain quite a lot,” she said almost fearfully.
Eunice moved her feet, bringing them close together. She nodded slowly. “I’m used to that. I’m a hard worker.”
At this point Jacqueline should have asked why Eunice was leaving her present situation, or at least something about her present situation. For all she knew, there might not have been one. She didn’t ask. She was bemused by those “madams,” excited by the contrast between this woman and Eva Baalham, this woman and the last pert, to pretty au pair. It was all so different from what she had expected.
Eagerly she said, “When could you start?”
Eunice’s blank face registered a faint surprise, as well it might.
“You’ll want a reference,” she said.
“Oh yes,” said Jacqueline, reminded. “Of course.”
A white card was produced from Eunice’s large black handbag. On it was written in the same handwriting as the letter that had so dismayed Jacqueline in the first place: Mrs. Chichester, 24 Willow Vale, London, S.W. 18, and a phone number. The address was the one which had headed Eunice’s letter.