I read this book years ago. Years ago. I lost my copy. As soon as randomhouse reprinted it, I snapped up this new version and immediately re-read it. It's another Rendell gem. I won't say too much about it, because it's brilliant in the ways Rendell is traditionally brilliant (and I've gone on about them enough in previous reviews), but it's without doubt another of her excellent pieces. Victor Jenner is a truly horrific Rendell character - possibly one of her most memorable, in that Live Flesh is an intense study of his character and no other. He's the beast at the centre of it all, and with the usual frightening insight it is that she crafts him. As one reads, you cannot help but shiver as this self-centred criminal lays the blame for his violence at every door but his own, as he finds everyone but himself wanting as concerns the path of his fate. Self-obsessed in the traditionally Rendellian fashion, he considers himself one of life's great victims ("as much a victim as Fleetwood, really", he muses at one point - David Fleetwood is the policeman Victor shoots in the spine, paralysing him for life, in the opening scene). Never has one man's mania for the self seemed so real, never has the mind of a deluded been made so starkly logical. Rendell might, indeed, have outdone herself in this respect. She almost has you believing it along with Victor.
Live Flesh is another of Rendell's Gold Dagger winners, and again its deserved. It's a deeply unsettling, but beautifully wrougt, portrait of a scarred mind, written impeccably and, even when you come to the last page, there are still a few drops of bitter poison left in the vial. Superb.