Saturday, November 10, 2012

Not in the Flesh: Review

Just to start off....I've seriously got to do something about my end-of-year reading habits.  It should not take me five days to read a Ruth Rendell mystery.  It just shouldn't.  

But for some reason, it did indeed take me five days to turn the last page on Rendell's Not in the Flesh.  In this story, a truffle-hunting dog unearths an unusual find....a human hand instead of the underground mushrooms its owner wants to dig up and sell.  Its up to Chief Inspector Wexford and his team to try and identify the remains and see if they can solve the ten year old mystery.  During the investigation, another body is discovered in the area and they must determine if they are dealing with two mysteries or only one.  There are lots of of long-buried secrets--some buried deeper than the bodies of the murdered men.  And there will be an attempt to silence Wexford himself before it's all over.

I'm not sure exactly why this book took so long to finish.  It's true that life in the Fall tends to get a bit more hectic, but it wasn't just a sense of having too much too do and too little time to read.  Rendell is her usual competent mystery-writing self, but the story just didn't engross me the way hers usually do.  Her writing was as engaging as ever, but the mystery wasn't.  It didn't help that I identified the motive (which led me to the central who) early on.  It also didn't help that she thrust a "social commentary" issue into the story with no real reason at all--other than she must have wanted a soap box on which to rant about female circumcision. It's not that I don't agree that this is a horrific and abhorrent practice.  I do.  It is.  But there was no reason at all to bring it up in the story.  You want to make a point about the practice?  Fine, then let's have a murder plot that actually takes place within the community in which this type of mutilation is the norm.  Not the murders of two white males who seem to have connections to 1) fruit pickers OR 2) writers OR 3) landed gentry OR 4) anything else but the aforementioned community.

The best part of the mystery is the characterizations.  As always, Rendell gives us interesting and finely drawn characters.  The relationship between Wexford and Burden is nice, comfortable one after the many years of stories.  Reading this one was like reading about the adventures of old friends....I just wish that their adventures had been a bit more exciting this time.  Three stars.


Jenners said...

Oh I hear you!! It has been taking me FOREVER to finish books. It is almost embarrassing. In the beginning of the year, I was averaging 10 to 12 books a month. Now I'm lucky if I finish 5!! I think, in this case, it just wasn't holding your attention.

Bev Hankins said...

Well, the book wasn't doing it for me. But my reading stamina seems to be shot...I just started an ARC that has been sitting 'round forever (thought I better get on it). That's not going well either. So, I started another's pretty interesting and yet I still don't want to read it. Just got the reading blahs, I think.