King Solomon's Carpet (1991)

1992 Penguin paperback SUMMARY
Eccentric Jarvis lives in a crumbling schoolhouse overlooking the tube line, compiling his obsessive history of the Underground. A group of misfits are also drawn towards his strange house: Alice, who has run away from her husband and baby; Tom, the busker who rescues her; truant Jasper who finds his terrifying thrills on the tube; and enigmatic Axel, whose deadly secret casts a shadow over all their lives. Damaged, dispossesed, outcasts, they are brought together in violent and un-foreseen ways by London's dark and dangerous underground system.
- From the Penguin paperback edition


  • Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger Award, 1991


  • Penguin Audiobook, 01/10/1995. Read by William Gaminara.
  • The extensive use of Underground settings would make a visual adaptation virtually impossible.

  • Detailed accounts of travel via Underground have long been a feature of Rendell's work. Outside the Vine canon, perhaps the most notable example is Live Flesh (1986).

  • The title of the book is not explained until Chapter 10, when Jarvis compares the Underground to King Solomon's mythical carpet which could transport any number of people.

August 1, 1991

To the men and women who work for London Transport Underground; and to those who make music in its tunnels


'I tell you,' went on Syme with passion, 'that every time a train comes in I feel that it has broken past batteries of besiegers, and that man has won a battle against chaos. You say contemptuously that when one has left Sloane Square one must come to Victoria. I say that one might do a thousand things instead, and that whenever I really come there I have the sense of hairbreadth escape. And when I hear the guard shout out the word "Victoria", it is not an unmeaning word. It is to me the cry of a herald announcing conquest. It is to me indeed "Victoria"; it is the victory of Adam.' - G.K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday

"The Underground and its peculiarities, its potential as a death-trap or an escape route, shape the course of the novel . . . Throughout the most matter-of-fact social observation is combined with an underlying sense of implacability, and the effect is striking."
- Patricia Craig, The Times Literary Supplement

My (narrow) favourite of all Vine's work, King Solomon's Carpet is simultaneously bleak and compelling. Whereas previous Vine novels have largely concentrated on other a single character or a contrasting pair, here the narrative skilfully switches between Jarvis, Jed, Alice, Tom, Axel, Jasper, Cecelia, Tina, Daphne and others. A deserved award winner, and essential reading for anyone who likes trains, mysteries or simply fine writing.

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