Not in the flesh

Title: Not in the Flesh (Inspector Wexford #21)

Author: Ruth Rendell

Read by: Simon Vance

Category: Mystery- Police Procedural

Audio published: June 10, 2010 by Random House Audio (First published: January 1, 2007)

Rating: 3½ out of 5 stars

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Purchase: Amazon | IndieBound | Book Depository

When the truffle-hunting dog starts to dig furiously, his master’s first reaction is delight at the size of the clump the dog has unearthed: at the going rate, this one truffle might be worth several hundred pounds. Then the dirt falls away to reveal not a precious mushroom but the bones and tendons of what is clearly a human hand.

In Not in the Flesh, Chief Inspector Wexford tries to piece together events that took place eleven years earlier, a time when someone was secretly interred in a secluded patch of English countryside. Now Wexford and his team will need to interrogate everyone who lives nearby to see if they can turn up a match for the dead man among the eighty-five people in this part of England who have disappeared over the past decade. Then, when a second body is discovered nearby, Wexford experiences a feeling that’s become a rarity for the veteran policeman: surprise.

As Wexford painstakingly moves to resolve these multiple mysteries, long-buried secrets are brought to daylight.

Two dead bodies, and the police don’t know who they are or why they were killed, but Kingsmarkham is essentially a small town, one where if you ask around enough you find someone who knows someone who saw something. This time around there’s two cases and Wexford isn’t sure if they are connected or not. If not, it’s an extreme coincidence.

Wexford is his usual self, non-judgemental, but leery of computers and the internet. He’s a little old-fashioned, which makes a nice contrast to one of his newer officers, a young woman who is determinedly feminist and familiar, eschewing “mister” for first names and referring to Wexford as guv. The suspects and witnesses are an odd bunch. There are migrant workers, a bitter landowner, a sci-fi/fantasy writer who lives with his wife and his ex-wife, a heavy-set widow with a handsome male aide. And I have to say Simon Vance, the reader of this audiobook, makes them all come alive.

I like how the solution to the mysteries unfolds. It takes a while for Wexford and his team to put the clues together, but once they start rolling, it wraps itself up well. I had a pretty good idea what had happened before the reveal, but I thin Wexford did too, he just needed enough proof. This one did rely a lot on dialogue, there’s a lot of discussing the case, of hearing what others learned during, even explanations at the end by Wexford instead of a grand denouement. It wasn’t an issue for me, I don’t necessarily need an action-driven mystery, especially when the actual murder was years ago. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of action, Wexford is even almost killed, but in general, the Wexford mysteries are low on gore and gunplay.

Another solid entry in the Wexford series. Rendell does tend to deal with social issues in her books and in this one there’s a side plot involving the Somalian community and female genital mutilation. This practice is a traditional piece of Somalian culture but understandably illegal in Britain. While it wasn’t necessary to the plot, I think it showed how committed Wexford and his family are to the community, and shed light on a truly horrible, abusive practice.

Challenge: WAYR

Chief Inspector Wexford Series

  1. From Doon with Death
  2. A New Lease of Death (apa: Sins of the Fathers)
  3. Wolf to the Slaughter
  4. The Best Man To Die
  5. A Guilty Thing Surprised
  6. No More Dying Then
  7. Murder Being Once Done
  8. Some Lie and Some Die
  9. Shake Hands Forever
  10. A Sleeping Life
  11. Put on by Cunning (apa: Death Notes)
  12. The Speaker of Mandarin
  13. An Unkindness of Ravens
  14. The Veiled One
  15. Kissing the Gunner’s Daughter
  16. Simisola
  17. Road Rage
  18. Harm Done
  19. The Babes in the Wood
  20. End in Tears
  21. Not in the Flesh
  22. The Monster in the Box
  23. The Vault

Short Stories

  • Means of Evil and Other Stories