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Description - Live Flesh by Ruth Rendell

Victor Jenner is a sociopath. After ten years in prison for shooting - and permanently crippling - a young policeman, Victor is released to a strange new world and told to make a new life for himself. It's hard to adjust to civilian life, but at least there's one blessing - he was never convicted for all those rapes he committed. Then Victor meets David, the policeman he shot, and David's beautiful girlfriend, Clare. And suddenly Victor's new life is starting to look an awful lot like the old one.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099502708
ISBN-10: 0099502704
Format: Paperback
(178mm x 110mm x 17mm)
Pages: 272
Imprint: Arrow Books Ltd
Publisher: Cornerstone
Publish Date: 5-Jan-1995
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Book Reviews - Live Flesh by Ruth Rendell

US Kirkus Review » When Rendell goes all out for psychopathology rather than conventional suspense, the results can sometimes truly be riveting - as in the case of A Judgement in Stone. Often, however, as in this new novel about a severely disturbed ex-convict, Rendell's clinical studies can become more pathetic and oppressive than compelling, especially if the story (like this one) lacks a strongly appealing supporting cast. Victor Jenner, 38, has just emerged from prison after over ten years: he was convicted of shooting policeman David Fleetwood during a panicky siege/shoot-out following Victor's flight from the scene of a brutal rape. (He was never tried for any of his several rape-crimes.) So now Victor must try to build a new life for himself - with little money, no job, no friends, no family (except an old, rich, hostile aunt), and no psychiatric treatment. He has good intentions, a little surface charm, a fair amount of willpower (enough to fight off flickers of rape-urge), but limitless powers of self-delusion - especially when it comes to his Oedipal psychohistory (which is laid on thick but not with full persuasiveness). With no real personal connections, then, Victor soon develops an obsession with the most important man in his life: David, the young policeman he shot (by accident, Victor swears), who has been confined to a wheelchair, and sexually impotent, ever since. Victor seeks him out; half-believably, a strange friendship grows between the two men - since Victor's presence helps David come to realer terms with his disability, while Victor passes from self-deception through naked guilt (a new sensation for him) to a sort of repentance. But, as every reader will sense from the start, this tale of rehabilitation and repentance is leading to dreadful things: Victor, still very crazy, becomes determined to possess David's girlfriend Clare (who does sleep with him once). And when she rebuffs him repeatedly, rekindling all his Oedipal manias, Victor goes on a rampage of rape and murder. . .before his grimly ironic downfall. By general standards, even second-string Rendell is fine work, of course: leanly stylish, starkly detailed, often darkly amusing. And a few touches here - like Victor's use of a wheelchair (just like David's) in his flight from justice - are Rendell at her brilliant best. But, even as a case-history, this is only half-successful: Victor has a Hitchcockian phobia involving tortoises, for example, that's sheer contrivance. And, with no one else to care about (David and Clare are just sketches), the reader is stuck with Victor for the duration: claustrophobic, ultimately dispiriting company, despite Rendell's often-effective attempts to humanize a psycho-criminal profile. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Ruth Rendell

Ruth Rendell is the Queen of British crime writing. The author of over 50 novels, she has won many significant crime fiction awards. Her first novel, From Doon With Death, appeared in 1964, and since then her reputation and readership have grown steadily with each new book. She has received major awards for her work; three Edgars from the Mystery Writers of America; the Crime Writers' Gold Dagger Award for 1976's best crime novel, A Demon in My View; the Arts Council National Book Award for Genre Fiction in 1981 for The Lake of Darkness; the Crime Writer's Gold Dagger Award for 1986's best crime book for Live Flesh; in 1987 the Crime Writer's Gold Dagger Award for A Fatal Inversion and in 1991 the same award for King Solomon's Carpet, both written under the pseudonym Barbara Vine; the Sunday Times Literary Award in 1990; and in 1991 the Crime Writer's Cartier Diamond Award for outstanding contribution to the crime fiction genre. Her books are translated into 21 languages. In 1996 she was awarded the CBE and in 1997 became a Life Peer.

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