Best-selling author Ruth Rendell has died aged 85, her publisher has confirmed.
The crime writer and Labour peer, who suffered a stroke in January, wrote more then 60 novels including the much-loved Inspector Wexford detective series.
In a statement, Penguin Random House said: “We are devastated by the loss of one of our best-loved authors”.
Born in Essex, Rendell wrote her debut novel From Doon with Death in 1964, which introduced readers to Inspector Reginald Wexford. It was the first of 24 books about the sensitive detective, who was played in the 1980s and 90s TV series by George Baker.
Over the next 50 years, Rendell went on to write police procedurals, psychological mysteries, and a crime series under the pseudonym Barbara Vine. Her books were adapted many times for TV and cinema, translated into more then 20 languages, and sold over 60 million copies worldwide.
The chair of Penguin Random House UK, Gail Rebuck, said: “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.”
“Ruth also became one of the first New Labour working peers, continuing to effect change through the House of Lords, most particularly on the issue of female genital mutilation.
“Ruth 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.”
Many fans took to Twitter to pay tribute, including Woman’s Hour presenter Jenni Murray, who wrote:
So sad to hear of death of #RuthRendell great writer, terrifying interviewee! Loved her.
— Jenni Murray (@whjm) May 2, 2015
Ruth Rendell’s final novel, Dark Corners, is due to be published in October.