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Summary

There are only two things in life that interest Stanley: solving crossword puzzles, and getting his hands on his mother-in-law’s money. For 20 years, the puzzles have been his only pleasure, the money his only dream. It has never occurred to Stanley that his mother-in-law would try to outsmart him and the money would never be his. Until now.

It is only now that Stanley, so clever at misleading double meanings and devious clues, decides to construct a puzzle of his own - and so give death a helping hand.

©1971 Ruth Rendell (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

What listeners say about One Across, Two Down

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One Across, Two Down

This fairly early, well 70s, RR novel centres around Stanley Manning, a middle-aged crossword fanatic (hence the title) and his long - suffering wife, Vera. Maud, Vera's spiteful and lazy resident mother makes Stanley's life hell, but via her own admission of great fortune leads Stanley to construct the puzzle of his life.

I did enjoy this book. As ever, RR evokes a suburban world of gossip, intrigue and hidden lives behind respectable net curtains. Stanley is a typical antihero of this genre.

The narrator, Nicky Henson, had a pleasantly deep voice which was particularly suited to the male roles. That said, when he attempts the female roles of say, Maud and Ethel, well let's just say that he channels Monty Python. The recording was also a little echoey at times, but it wasn't particularly distracting.

5 people found this helpful

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crossword fanatic

Any additional comments?

stanley is obsessed with doing crossword puzzles and the money maud with leave when she dies to her daughter, his wife, and all the plans he has to spend it.
well written characters, down trodden viv who works to keep them afloat, stanley who would rather laze at home than work and maud who thinks her daughter could have done far better than marry stanley wanting viv to leave him and live with her.
this is the first book I have listened to by ruth rendall and is very much of its time when twenty thousand pounds was a fortune.
nicky Henson performed the book well doing a reasonably good female voices although he has a deep voice.
I enjoyed the book.

3 people found this helpful

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Good but not flawless

This is, essentially, the story of a lazy, feckless husband’s schemes to get his hands on his mother-in-law’s legacy of £20,000. The equivalent, apparently, of just over a quarter of a million today, that sum hardly seems to warrant all the risks, including being charged with murder, until one realises (or remembers) just how impoverished many people’s lives were in the late 60s/early 1970s.
It’s difficult to enjoy a novel whose characters are, almost without exception, unremittingly awful. Simplistically, it’s always nice to have someone to root for but here you couldn’t care less what happens to them and can’t wait for their early removal from the page. Even the daughter of the “rich” woman hardly commands much sympathy because she almost courts drudgery and bullying - you keep wanting to shake her out of her bovine passivity. That probably says a lot about women’s roles at the time, but doesn’t help add up to a very satisfying narrative.
The luckless husband’s one and only skill is his ability to do The Telegraph crossword in record time and even, eventually, to compile them. Now, I know there are those who claim that crossword solving is just a mindset or learned skill and does not denote intelligence but I can’t agree with that: I have never come across someone able to do broadsheet crosswords who is actually a stupid person. Whereas our anti hero here does not have an intelligent idea or make a single move that is not blatantly stupid throughout the whole of the book. And you feel that even the wife, whom we see sailing off to something resembling a brighter future, is saved through luck rather than judgment, to be cared for by an old beau in the exercise of her housewifely skills. You get no sense that she’ll try to develop in other ways. I found all this bleakness very frustrating.
On the positive side this book is packed with comic and macabre moments, authentic dialogue, and a peep into an almost forgotten but not all that distant period when houses had no kitchen appliances, girls were poorly educated and lacking in any life skills other than keeping house and waiting on a husband, mobility was almost exclusively by bus, women in their 60s looked like old hags, with their false teeth and permed curls, and there were only two channels on TV. Ms Rendell describes all this with an unerring eye!

2 people found this helpful

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great listen

it was easy listening great narrator I couldn't stop listening 2 nights I finished it ,,,,,,

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A gripping story


This is one of those books where the central character, Stanley, is so villainous that one keeps hoping he will get his comeuppance. In this story the son-in-law is the scoundrel who bullies his meek wife whom he married in the hope of eventually getting her inheritance. A series of bungling catastrophes makes for a gripping listen as Stanley tries to cover up what he has done.
The narrator done a good job.

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The old 'uns are the best!

Well narrated and a very enjoyable listen. Although dated it is cleverly written and plotted as usual by Ruth Rendell.
A welcome break from some of the more grisly, modern thrillers and every bit as enjoyable.

1 person found this helpful

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Two dazzling learners arrive in Britain. (9)

I have listened to a few of Ruth Rendell’s audio books and have never yet been disappointed. Her characterisations are just so true to life and the narrator really brings the characters to life. I tried to guess throughout the book how Stanley would get found it or how both the main characters would discover they are being deceived. I was amused to find I share Stanley’s love of cryptic crossword and find myself making up clues for words. Should I be worried? Nevertheless this was a great listen, and a BRILLIANT story.

1 person found this helpful

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not the best RR I have listened to

For me this story is a bit tedious and weak. The narration didn't help with some very silly voices

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A bit of a weird ending

I do love Ruth Rendell and also loved the narration but the ending was a bit strangr

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Hard work, very.

Kitchen-sink English wotrking-class squabbling among unpleasant people who are impossible to feel much positive about.
There's two old harridans, a work shy pig of a man and a run down housewife with a void where her character should live.
Sketching out these dowdy people's lives takes what feels like - forever.
This has to be one of the reasons why Amazon is giving away free to us what seems like a huge number of Ruth Rendell's books.
Even free, this one's too expensive.

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  • Suzanne fox
  • 09-03-18

Fantastic!

A must listen for any true Rendell fan! Excellent narrator as well. I’ve listen to several and this is one of my favs.

3 people found this helpful