Randolph Stow’s latest novel recounts a series of apparently motiveless murders in the murky atmosphere of an old Suffolk seaport. It reminds us that along with his famous descriptive power, Stow has always been adept at plotting stories which compel the reader with unobtrusive tact. The Suburbs of Hell is short and precisely constructed to concentrate the significance of every detail so that it has the satisfying richness of many longer books. This quality is typical of some of his earlier novels, but in The Suburbs of Hell he intensifies the suggestive power of a tightly inter-connected plot by using the conventions of the thriller. Not that the reader is simply compelled by the urge to discover who done it; there is a deeper significance in the book than this, hinted by the title, from a speech by Bosola in The Duchess of Malfi which is also one of the novel’s epigraphs.
Ross, Bruce Clunies; Roberts, Sheila; Adler, Joyce Sparer; and Maes-Jelinek, Hena, Book Reviews, Kunapipi, 6(1), 1984.