Last week I took a look at Ruth Rendell´s novel “Simisola” about illegal immigrants and unemployment. Today´s crime novel is “Road Rage” from 1997.
Do nettles matter? Or butterflies? Well, certainly it must be more important to have a bypass around your town so people can get to work on time instead of sitting in a queue in the centre.
On the very first page Chief Inspector Reg Wexford says goodbuy to Framhurst Great Wood, deploring the fact that nature must surrender to asphalt:
“For six months the trees would remain and the uninterrupted view over the hill, the otters in the Brede and the rare Map butterfly in Framhurst Deeps. But he didn´t think he could bear to see it any more. …
When I retire, he had told his wife, I want to live in London so that I can´t see the countryside destroyed.”
Dora Wexford believes in taking up the battle, so she joins KABAL, Kingsmarkham Against the Bypass and Landfill. Soon environmental groups join the protest, and next come the tree people, worshippers of nature who seem to mix ideas from New Age and paganism:
“The tree people drove steel bolts into tree trunks at a height calculated to buckle a chain-saw blade when felling began. They they began building themselves dwellings in the tops of beeches and oaks, tree-houses of planks and tarpaulin and approached by ladders which could be pulled up once the occupant was installed.”
Dora worries that some of tree fellers may be hurt, and Reg Wexford fears a civil war is going to break out. He tries to be pragmatic or ´eat my cake and have it´ as he says, but of course the protests escalate, and people are hurt.
Just like in “Simisola”, Rendell combines her social issue with an excellent crime plot in a way that seems natural and effortless. She introduces the various groups and their points of view, and by and by she demonstrates how difficult it is to look through people and decide who are idealists and who protests for completely different reasons.
Next week: “Harm Done” (1998)