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on 13 May 2017
Great story line for horror story different from most type of horror.
Expected type of ending but hey what do u expect
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on 7 March 2017
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on 3 April 2017
Brilliant story teller keeps you guessing with every page gripping on the edge of your seat superb can't wait to read the next book
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on 17 January 2015
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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.
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VINE VOICEon 10 January 2008
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.
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on 4 October 2010
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.
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I have not read all the Rendell books featuring Reg Wexford but have to say I liked this one and the many characters she describes so clearly. Yes, I did work out who had done it before all was explained but found the journey well written and the way it intertwined with another investigation was successful in delaying me working out some of the end result. Because I have not read lots of Reg Wexford investigations I cannot say if this is typical of his way of investigating but what I did like was the humanity he brought to the case and the playing off Inspector Burdon and the more junior officers. I was very glad that Reg escaped being run down by a car and thought the cast on his arm being signed and written on by his grandchildren was a nice touch. All told I read the book over 5 days and am looking forward to reading the next one that I find.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 August 2008
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.
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VINE VOICEon 9 November 2008
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.
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