Talking to Strange Men

Talking to Strange Men

by Ruth Rendell

Arlene Almas (09/14/12): You can always count on Ruth Rendell for a crisp, delectable mystery, and "Talking to Strange Men" certainly fills the bill. She gives us two parallel narratives which begin with only one point of intersection: a "dead drop" where members of a group of teenage spy wanna-bes leave coded messages for each other. This "London Central" group engages in ongoing rivalry with "Moscow Centre," leading to constant efforts to filch each other's codes. An extremely bright lad named Mungo, Director of London Central, is an able leader of all his group's activities. Meanwhile, in the adult world, John has been desperately trying to woo back his wife, who has left him for another man. By sheer chance he comes across the boys' dead drop; seizing the coded messages inside, he concludes that a real criminal gang is operating in the neighborhood. All manner of mayhem ensues, as Mungo tries to discover who is the double agent in his group and John attempts to wreak vengeance on his wife's lover. But everything becomes dangerously serious when one of the boys actually makes contact with the man John is after - the conclusion is a shocker.
Rating: ****

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