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14 August 2014

Not in the Flesh
Ruth Rendell
Publication Date
July 2008


The wait is over: here’s a new Wexford novel. And Not in the Flesh is one of the sharpest, most astringent outings for Ruth Rendell’s doughty copper in some time. Rendell's studies in dark psychology (which have at their centre characters who appear only in individual novels) are the most highly regarded among aficionados of her wok, but the unalloyed good feeling prompted by a fresh appearance for her long-term protagonist Inspector Wexford is something to be savoured, and we are once again in safe hands here.
A man taking his dog for a walk in a wooded area stumbles across a grim object -- a severed human hand. The body to which it belongs has been hidden from sight for years, as Wexford subsequently finds out. Of course, with the uncountable numbers of missing persons in police files, Wexford is well aware it will be an uphill struggle tracking down the identity of the body. Shortly after, in the basement of a disused cottage, another victim of violence is discovered, and Wexford and his reliable team find themselves attempting to discover connections between the murders.

My review:  

A body gets found in an old overgrown field by a dog walker. It is quickly established that the body has been there for around 10 years, and could not have died from natural causes. In good old fashioned detective story style, we have several suspects. There is grumpy John Grimble, owner of the field where the body was found. Grimble is your arch-typical does-not-get-on-with-authority-person. He wanted to develop the fields into housing, but this was not allowed. Indeed, he has started already to dig - almost 10 years ago! - but than was not allowed to continue. On the grounds of this field is also an old cottage where Grimble's old dad used to live. And another body gets found there, dead for at least 8 years so it can be established. It is reasonable to assume that there is a connection between the two bodies. Most neighbours have various kind of alibis, but all of them seem to come apart one way or another. 

Let's face it - with book 21 in this series, we certainly know what we are going to get here. An Inspector Wexford book with all the usual trimmings. Good old style English crime, a 'whodunnit' in modern day setting. Several suspects - some more in the frame than others, red herrings, getting nearer and nearer to the real suspect until the reader can have a good guess. And part of this good guess is being mistaken (or being at the right) in the end.

The setting of the book in the english countryside makes for a quiet pace of the investigation. No inner-city tough cop, but Wrexford and his team who certainly know what they do. And I don't mean this in a bad way. If this is the crime story you enjoy this is exactly what you are going to get. The plot is interesting, with many twists and turns, but not over-complicated. 

A book for a fan of the 'Whodunnit' genre which will keep you entertained. 

About the author:  


Ruth Rendell has won many awards, including the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger for 1976's best crime novel with A Demon in My View; a second Edgar in 1984 from the Mystery Writers of America for the best short story, 'The New Girl Friend'; and a Gold Dagger award for Live Flesh in 1986. She was also the winner of the 1990 Sunday Times Literary award, as well as the Crime Writers' Association Cartier Diamond Dagger. In 1996 she was awarded the CBE and in 1997 became a Life Peer.