Customer Reviews


45 Reviews
5 star:
 (12)
4 star:
 (13)
3 star:
 (6)
2 star:
 (7)
1 star:
 (7)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ruth Rendell - Not in the Flesh
Searching for truffles in a local wood, a man and his dog unearth a human hand. That hand eventually turns into an entire skeleton when the police dig up the surrounding ground. An entire skeleton robed in a decaying purple sheet, a cracked rib the only sign that the body might have met a death by violence. Investigations reveal that the body has been interred since a...
Published on 20 Aug 2008 by RachelWalker

versus
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Workmanlike but tired
A characteristic of the Wexford books has always been that they are very much of their time and focus on crimes touching the concerns of the day. This always gave Rendell an opportunity through the highly moral Wexford to examine the zeitgeist and ask some timely questions.

But this novel, competent though it is, could be set in any period. There's nothing...
Published on 10 Jan 2008 by Ray Blake


‹ Previous | 1 25 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ruth Rendell - Not in the Flesh, 20 Aug 2008
By 
RachelWalker "RachelW" (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Searching for truffles in a local wood, a man and his dog unearth a human hand. That hand eventually turns into an entire skeleton when the police dig up the surrounding ground. An entire skeleton robed in a decaying purple sheet, a cracked rib the only sign that the body might have met a death by violence. Investigations reveal that the body has been interred since a trench was dug 11 years ago in order to prepare to build houses the planning permission for which was later denied. However, the identity of the corpse remains a complete mystery. Then, a second body is found in a nearby abandoned house, and that has been there for many years as well...

Not in the Flesh is something like Rendell's 56th book, her 21st Wexford story. So far, the reviews I have seen have not been kind to it. Some of their criticisms are valid: there's some sloppiness (for example, Wexford on one page putting his faith in hunches and the next condemning intuition), and in tying up one plot point in the final pages she leaves another more vital one (a motive for one of the murders, no less!) completely open), and some lazy plotting whereby character's lives are handily furnished with significant events which allow them to remember a specific day eleven years ago.

However, other criticisms aren't. The moaning about Wexford not aging (every review comes concomitant with a snide comment that Wexford should be ancient or his daughters over 60) seems childish, lazy reviewing picking on easy targets. Since when has real-time been a particular concern of much crime-fiction? Rendell has been penning these temporally static Wexford novels for over 40 years, in that time proving herself one of the all time great crime-writers, and that static-ness hasn't been an issue whatsoever or stopped her massive reputation at all. Crime fiction of this kind - that which harkens back to the "Golden Age", has never had its concern in passing time accurately, and everyone knows that. The detectives are there to pivot the plot around - it may be a bit mechanical but that is what a lot of that kind of crime fiction is. It's Rendell's great talent that it has never seemed mechanical in these Wexford novels. It is a little unfair to use as a criticism what is almost a staple, underlying rule of the form. It is hardly plausible to change the style of a series half-way through in any case. Some writers age their detectives now, in away that is very realistic, but these other kinds of detective fiction are not supposed to be a mirror of reality (a commentator, perhaps, but not a mirror). It's a mistake to fall into the trap of thinking that all fiction should be thus.

Instead, though, Wexford is allowed to be a kind of social comparison meter of late, contrasting the past with the contemporary. And this is one of several areas where these Wexford novels are still very effective, in the clash of past - in Wexford - and present - in the cases and people he deals with. Yes, he may seem outdated, but that's entirely the point: he couldn't be otherwise, and even though he doesn't age physically his views, as a person who witnessed the passage of previous decades, if only in fiction, are entirely realistic. This is a trap that this form creates, especially when the series goes on to be such a long one, but Rendell deals with it as well as it's possible to, I think. She credits Wexford with the views which a man of his character and age would, almost of necessity, have. And the fact that she's not a particularly judgemental writer of her characters views, she just presents them as they are, means that it's often very hard to work out where she herself stands, which may be where some of the criticism comes from (one reviewer attributed Wexford's views to Rendell, which, of this pilates-doing flash-disk-using author, I know to be ridiculous). My point, basically, is this: it would be more ridiculous if things were otherwise.

Indeed, sharp insights into society and people are still heavily on display here, and are one of the factors which make this book a very worthwhile read. Always a staple of the Rendell novel, they are on show here as much as ever, as she writes piercingly about her characters, their views, motivations, actions, and the world that shapes them. Another immense strength of this book is its subplot (about the problem of female circumcision in Somali immigrants), which Rendell writes about with passion, immediacy, and drive. However, Rendell seems so engaged with this, and writes so grippingly about it as a result, that the main plot seems almost in its shadow, in terms of the writing and in the author's interest in it. Certainly, it is the subplot which had the largest effect on me, and is the part I recall in most detail.

Rendell's job in these Wexford novels has always been to provide a satisfying mystery, with her own added extra being the startling observations about the world we live in, it is has never been her job for them to be wholly plausible or realistic in all their aspects (Wexford's aging; the book extracts it seems impossible could be finally long enough to provide a full-length-book, etc.) and there is no reason why they should start receiving criticism for that now. (Indeed, it is not the job of any detective fiction to provide a 100% accurate account of the world, and never has been. If some examples of it choose to, then fair enough.) Internally they make sense, and she provides a satisfying, well-structured mystery. Not in the Flesh, apart from a few minor hiccups, accomplishes this task with ease. It isn't her best, it isn't even as good as the last excellent Wexford, End in Tears, but it's still damn good.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable if unexceptional outing for Inspector Wexford, 6 April 2008
By 
M.D. Smart (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Despite the fact that most of her admirers would doubtless choose one of her other guises (the non-Wexford Rendell books or the Barbara Vine novels) as representing her best work, the Inspector Wexford series remains Ruth Rendell's most popular output. There have certainly been some very good Wexford stories over the forty-odd years since his first appearance, but the conventions of writing a police procedural sometimes seem to stifle Ms Rendell's fervid imagination, which is given free reign in her other books. Obviously both the public and her publishers still want her to produce Wexford novels on a regular basis, but it seems as if her interest in her most famous creation has waned over the years, and in some of her recent Wexfords such as 'Babes In the Wood' it really felt she was writing out of duty and obligation rather than choice. However, the Chief Inspector's last case, 'End In Tears', was a marked improvement, and although 'Not In The Flesh' isn't its equal, I'd still rate it as one of the better Wexford novels of the past decade or so.

The central crime - the discovery of two bodies on a plot of land which have remained undiscovered for a decade - is intriguing, although perhaps the motive behind the crimes won't come as a shock; I had a rough idea of what lay behind the mystery long before the Chief Inspector himself did. Nevertheless, it manages to keep the reader engrossed until the end. As usual, there is a sub-plot which involves Wexford's family, and this time it concerns the horrifying practice of female circumcision. Ms Rendell handles the subject as thoughtfully and sensitively as long-time fans would expect, and the climax to this story strand is nail-biting. However, usually these side issues are cleverly woven in to the main plotline, and that just isn't the case here. As well-written and important as it is, it still feels tacked-on and completely at odds with the tone of the rest of the book.

My other problem with 'Not In The Flesh' is the tiresome carping about 'political correctness'. I really expected better of Ms. Rendell than this. The issue of over-zealous political correctness was covered by many other authors years ago when it might actually have been considered a newsworthy topic. These days the only people who use the phrase are lazy journalists who work for right-wing tabloids like the Mail and the Express - and even they are only pandering to their readers' prejudices. I have always admired Ruth Rendell's strong stand against all kinds of social injustice, and to find her wasting her words on a non-issue that only the most small-minded of Middle Englanders would consider worth mentioning is both disappointing and embarrassing.

Still, despite these misgivings, 'Not In The Flesh' remains a mostly enjoyable read and I'd still recommend it to anyone who liked previous Wexford novels. Nevertheless, I must confess to wondering whether it wouldn't be better for the Chief Inspector to finally hand in his warrant card for good, leaving his creator free to concentrate on her other, more interesting work.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Workmanlike but tired, 10 Jan 2008
By 
Ray Blake (Hemel Hempstead, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
A characteristic of the Wexford books has always been that they are very much of their time and focus on crimes touching the concerns of the day. This always gave Rendell an opportunity through the highly moral Wexford to examine the zeitgeist and ask some timely questions.

But this novel, competent though it is, could be set in any period. There's nothing about it that says 2007, except for the two tacked-on themes of female circumcision and political correctness. Rendell's social comment is usually made integral to the mystery, but this time they really don't fit.

It feels as though the Wexford series is getting tired now, and not just because Wexford has been on the brink of retirement for at least 20 years. This novel simply doesn't have the relevance that used to be characteristic of the series.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I'm sorry to be saying this but ..., 9 Nov 2008
By 
fivestarfrankie (chippenham, wiltshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
this book is just not good enough. Long after I worked out whodunnit and why Wexford is still going in the wrong direction. The writing is very good but the plotting is dreadful. I think back to how highly I rated Wexford novels 20 and more years ago and find it very sad that I can only give this two stars.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Retirement Due?, 4 Oct 2010
By 
D. C. Mytum (Ramsgate, Kent) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
It hurts me to write a bad review on an Inspector Wexford novel but `Not in the Flesh' was awful.
I've enjoyed a number of the early Wexford novels and, after a break of few years since my last one, I bought this without hesitation believing it would be just as good as I remembered them to be. This one, however, was a huge disappointment.
The story appears cobbled together and, as other reviewers have said, I guessed the outcome long before the end. The constant referrals to `political correctness' is infuriating and the terrible `PC' character, constable Hannah, made me want to hurl the book across the room and give up. The sub-plot about female genital mutilation had nothing whatsoever to do with the story and just felt stuck in. Maybe it was to make a point or raise awareness of the issue but I don't think an Inspector Wexford novel is the place to do it.
If this is a taste of what's to come with future Wexford novels then maybe the good Inspector should retire.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not up to her usual standard, 22 Sep 2008
By 
Sarah W (North West London) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
I'm afraid I found this very disappointing, particularly having just read (and thoroughly enjoyed) `The Water's Lovely'. I am not such a fan of Ms Rendell's Wexford novels (preferring her Barbara Vine books) so perhaps I shouldn't have expected to like it more. However, I found the main plot unusually (for Rendell) weak, disjointed and not particularly compelling -so many characters were brought into it, I became very confused about who was who, particularly as few stood out as particularly `rounded' or interesting.

All the stuff about political correctness seemed somewhat dated and the sub-plot about female genital mutilation was a bit `preachy' and blatantly a conscious `theme' rather than integral to the novel. I think sub-plots should relate, in some way, to the main plot of a novel but this was at a tangent and added little to the story other than extra characters.

As for the main plot, it lacked tension, both crimes having been committed so long ago. It wasn't until the novel neared its end that it cranked up a gear, by which point I'd guessed the identity of the killer as well as the motive. (nb: the motive for one of the crimes committed seemed very unlikely)
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Good old-fashioned Whodunnit, 15 Aug 2014
This review is from: Not in the Flesh: (A Wexford Case) (Kindle Edition)
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment, 21 Nov 2008
By 
Potterywhizz (Dorset) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
The book was very slow and lacked any element of supense. Wexford was solid as usual but the whole story had a very dated out-of-touch feel, in particular a set of characters who could have stepped out of the Fifties. Way too many characters as well. It was a challenge to recall who was who because the plot didn't grip me. The political correctness was extremely irritating and the female detective seemed to think more like a Seventies extreme feminist than a young contemporary woman. I'm not particularly talented at guessing solutions to murder but anyone would guess who and why in this story because from the first revealing reference it was painfully obvious. The conclusion had an unsatisfying off-scene feel to it as well. The Somali female mutilation theme had more life to it than the rest of the book. All in all, an unusually dull unimaginative work from this very talented author.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Definitely not one of her best, 8 April 2010
By 
I'm a huge fan of Ruth Rendell but this book was dull and a struggle to get through. The plot centres around a body found by a truffle hunting dog and the investigation then leads to the discovery of another body. The truffle hunting dog was quite interesting but unfortunately, he only featured at the start and end of the book!

The novel essentially had three plots going. Two involved the bodies and a third is to do with female castration which is frankly bizarre and unrelated to the other two plots. I got the impression that it was a social and cultural issue that the author merely wished to tackle and that it had been inserted for that reason only. The most interesting part of the book was the sub-plot about a father who had gone to a funeral and never seen again and whose daughter had written a book about his disappearance. I think this should have been the main plot.

With the exception of the daughter who had written about her father's disappearance, the characters in this novel are unengaging and unsympathetic. I used to quite like Burden but even he was a pain in this novel. Disappointing.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Rendell Wexford story, 24 Nov 2013
By 
J. S. Morgan "johnmorgan747" (44, RH1 2JN,UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Not in the Flesh: (A Wexford Case) (Kindle Edition)
Once again, Rendell delights us with an excellently crafted plot and characters that she draws so well that you feel you know them well. Essential reading for all crime fiction aficianados.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 25 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Not in the Flesh: (A Wexford Case)
£3.59
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews