A Novel



Ruth Rendell is widely considered to be crime fiction’s reigning queen, with a remarkable career spanning more than forty years. Now, in Portobello, she delivers a captivating and intricate tale that weaves together the troubled lives of several people in the gentrified neighborhood of London’s Notting Hill.

Walking to the shops one day, fifty-year-old Eugene Wren discovers an envelope on the street bulging with cash. A man plagued by a shameful addiction—and his own good intentions—Wren hatches a plan to find the money’s rightful owner. Instead of going to the police, or taking the cash for himself, he prints a notice and posts it around Portobello Road. This ill-conceived act creates a chain of events that links Wren to other Londoners—people afflicted with their own obsessions and despairs. As these volatile characters come into Wren’s life—and the life of his trusting fiancée—the consequences will change them all.

Portobello is a wonderfully complex tour de force featuring a dazzling depiction of one of London’s most intriguing neighborhoods—and the dangers beneath its newly posh veneer.
  • Scribner | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439150405 | 
  • July 2011
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Portobello includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book. 


Walking to the Portobello Market shops in London’s Notting Hill one morning, wealthy gallery owner Eugene Wren discovers an envelope full of cash lying in the street. Rather than keep the money for himself or turn it over to the police, Wren attempts to find the owner by posting a notice around Portobello Road. This ill-conceived act sparks a chain of events that soon links Wren, a man plagued with a shameful addiction, to several other Londoners—people afflicted with their own obsessions and despairs. When these volatile characters creep into Wren’s life—and the life of his trusting fiancée—the consequences will forever change them all.


1. Discuss the significance of setting in the novel. How is the Portobello Road/Notting Hill area pivotal to the story? 

2. How does the novel’s structure—frequent movement between different characters and points of view—help to enhance the plot? Did you feel that the different points of vie see more

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About the Author

Ruth Rendell

Ruth Rendell (1930–2015) won three Edgar Awards, the highest accolade from Mystery Writers of America, as well as four Gold Daggers and a Diamond Dagger for outstanding contribution to the genre from England’s prestigious Crime Writ­ers’ Association. Her remarkable career spanned a half century, with more than sixty books published. A member of the House of Lords, she was one of the great literary figures of our time.