Bestselling crime novelist Ruth Rendell died Saturday in London, her publisher Penguin Random House announced. She was 85 and had suffered a serious stroke in January.
Rendell, who published more than 60 books, was best known for her Inspector Wexford series about a small-town detective. She launched the series in 1964 with "From Doon With Death" in 1964. Almost 50 years later, in 2013, she published her 24th Inspector Wexford book, "No Man's Nightingale."
"He sort of is me, although not entirely," she told the Observer at the time. "Wexford holds my views pretty well on most things, so I find putting him on the page fairly easy."
Rendell was a British socialist, a liberal appointed to the House of Lords in 1997 by Prime Minister Tony Blair, becoming Baroness Rendell of Babergh. She often wrote in the mornings then attended Parliament in the afternoon.
The Inspector Wexford stories were made into the television series "The Ruth Rendell Mysteries," which began airing in 1987.
"Ruth was much admired by the whole publishing industry for her brilliant body of work. An insightful and elegant observer of society, many of her award-winning thrillers and psychological murder mysteries highlighted the causes she cared so deeply about," Penguin Random House UK's Baroness Gail Rebuck told the Guardian. "She was a great writer, a campaigner for social justice, a proud mother and grandmother, a generous and loyal friend and probably the best read person I have ever met. Her many close friends in publishing and the House of Lords will greatly miss her wonderful company and her truly unique contribution to our lives."
In a review of her work at the Los Angeles Times, Eugen Weber lauded Rendell as "a master of the genre." Fellow author Patricia Cornwell called her "unequivocally the most brilliant mystery writer of our time."
Because she was so prolific, Rendell also published books as Barbara Vine. Her next book, published under her own name but not an Inspector Wexford mystery, is "Dark Corners," which will be published by Simon and Schuster in December.