RUTH RENDELL – Not in the Flesh. Crown, US, hardcover, June 2008. Trade paperback: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, June 2009. British edition: Hutchinson, hardcover, 2007.

RUTH RENDELL Not in the Flesh

   Jim Belbury likes to walk his dog through Old Grimble’s Field because the dog is good at sniffing out truffles which he can sell to fancy restaurants in London. But one summer’s day the dog digs out a skeletal hand which brings Chief Inspector Wexford and his team to investigate.

   The remains turns out to be those of a man who was killed about eleven years earlier. At that time Old Grimble’s stepson, who inherited the land, had the idea he could get the planning commission’s permission to put up houses on it.

   He and the man he hired had begun digging a trench where the sewage pipes would be laid. Permission was refused and the trench was filled in, but someone used it as a convenient place to hide a body.

   So the search begins to try and identify the body of someone who has been missing for eleven years. Then, a few days later, when two of Wexford’s men are searching the bungalow, they discover in the basement buried under a woodpile, the body of another man who, it turns out, was killed eight years earlier. Are the two dead men connected and, if so, how?

   Meanwhile, a subplot deals with female “circumcision” among the Somali community in Kingsmarkham when the Somali waitress at an Indian restaurant Wexford and his assistant, Mike Burden, like to eat lunch approaches Wexford because she fears her 5-year-old sister is about to have that procedure, which the waitress had undergone as a child.

   As usual, with Rendell, you cannot fault her writing or characterization. With this one, though, even before the identity of the body in the trench was discovered, I realized the motive for the murder and, if I didn’t know the exact name of the killer, I knew in which household the killer could be found.

   One other thing, and someone perhaps in the UK can help me out here: during the course of the novel the police are looking for a man nicknamed Dusty and, automatically, assume his last name must be Miller because all man nicknamed Dusty are invariably named Miller. Why? Over here we are likely to think his last name is Rhodes, but not invariably.