Somewhat mollified after my complaint to Waterstones about the shoddy proofreading of Alexander Kent's Bolitho novels, I was pleased to hear that the publishers, Random House, had embarked on a thorough proofing of the entire series. I shouldn't have been so complacent because there are more surprises to come from the Random House of Horrors. Take Ruth Rendell's recent Inspector Wexford mystery, The Monster in the Box, as an example. This is the American version, downloaded from the Kindle Store, and quite deplorable. I wouldn't normally expect to get a laugh from a crime story, but this is a hoot from start to finish.
As with the Kent novels, place names and proper nouns are a dark mystery as far as Random House is concerned. Whoever did the proofreading has certainly never set foot in Britain and has a tenuous grasp of our national dish, the curry, and other cultural matters.
A keen US Rendell fan might be tempted to pay a visit to some of the locations mentioned in the book. Arrival at Stinted Airport (Stansted) is essential, followed by a visit to the nearby and much-oppressed town of Taxed (Thaxted). Further afield, he might be tempted to visit New Quay or Dollish (Dawlish), Lime Regis (Lyme Regis), or Sutton Cold Field (Sutton Coldfield), one of the pushest (poshest) parts of Birmingham. While in London, a visit to Wands Worth or Kingsbury, NEW (NW9) could be worthwhile. For transport, he could use a German car such as a VOW or a Mercy and should certainly remember to park close to the kern at all times
When it comes to food, Britain is noted for the odd curry or two. So he could visit one of the tens of thousands of Indian restaurants and enjoy a stand-offish dish of aloof gobi followed by a hot chicken tike macula. This strangled menu isn't confined to humans. A poor inebriated dog character had "not been out for alkies for three days." On the positive side, it did have a bowl of dogwood.
This edition, like the Kent books, is not hot on personal names. The Hanif family, featured throughout, is usually referred to speculatively as the "Han if" family, although sometimes they become the Hanes. On one occasion, despite their religion, they are the Haifas. Any port in a storm, and it's so confusing.
All this pales into insignificance when it comes to religious practices. Random House can hope that some trigger-happy mullah isn't about to draw his fatwa. We have references to hall meat, a woman in a burke , and something being against Sharpie Law (isn't that a Bernard Cornwell book, by the way?). Coup de grace is the Anglicised religious festival of Enid.
The book is absolutely stuffed with howlers like this, not to mention dozens of "ordinary" mistakes. Even the Americanisation is patchy, with "colour" rubbing shoulders with "color" and "honour" with "honor". And what about "an A-level programme of moths, biology and physics"?
I want my money back.