REVIEWS - THIS BODY OF DEATH
From Publishers Weekly
Richmond Times Dispatch
For those so inclined, such books still proliferate. But for readers who crave more heft, writers such as the talented Elizabeth George provide literal and literary weight. "This Body of Death," the 16th installment in her series featuring aristocratic Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley of New Scotland Yard, is no exception, as George spins a captivating story in which the past victimizes the guilty and the innocent alike.
The death of Lynley's wife, Helen, in a senseless
street-crime shooting in
Now, in "This Body of Death," Lynley is recalled to
duty by the new acting superintendent, Isabelle Ardery, who is being
given a trial shot at the job Lynley turned down. Ardery, a midlevel
character in 1994's "Playing for the Ashes," may not be up to the
task. Her position as a woman in a male world is tough enough, but
her tendency to take a nip when she's feeling stressed makes her
performance even more problematic.
The victim is identified as Jemima Hastings, a lifelong resident of the New Forest until her breakup with her lover, reclusive thatcher Gordon Jossie, and her sudden move to London. As the cops develop a long list of suspects and interview subjects - among them a self-styled psychic, an environmentally sensitive landlady, a sculptor, an ice-skating instructor, a bartender and a single mom - it becomes clear that the New Forest is inextricably linked to the crime.
Meanwhile, George lays out a parallel narrative about the abduction and killing of a toddler by three pre-teens, a story based on the real-life murder of 2-year-old James Patrick Bulger by two children in 1993.
George tells both stories in detail, and the reader may begin to see a connection that leads to a tense and tragic solution. As always, her story is credible and commanding, and her characters - particularly Lynley and Havers - continue to evolve while remaining the reader's old and dear friends.
George's perceptive characterizations find a worthy complement in her descriptive powers, which evoke a strong sense of place, as in this passage about the New Forest:
"It was nearly impossible not to be enchanted by a
place where ponies lapped
It's a lovely moment in a devastating story, as George
continues her mastery of the novelist's art in an addictive series.
Yes, it's a long read, but it never grows tedious, and fans of the
author's work will again be spellbound by
A book for neither the faint of heart nor the short of patience, "This Body of Death" is a rich, unsettling work, one whose darkness is lightened by Lynley's steady emergence from grief. Death may claim its inevitable victory, but the pull of life retains its power in this eloquent affirmation.
From Associated Content
A woman has been stabbed to death in a London cemetery. Who is she, and why would someone want to kill her? What's the connection to the New Forest in Hampshire, where Gordon Jossie is a thatcher and where ponies roam free on the common land? And how does the other story fit in, the one interspersed with the present-day action and typed up as if from a psychologist's report?
DS Barbara Havers and DS Winston Nkata are on the case in Hampshire while Lynley works with Isabelle in London. Barbara comes across potentially valuable information but can't follow up because Ardery has called them back. It's only one mistake Ardery makes. In fact, she mishandles the investigation in myriad ways, putting her career in jeopardy. She desperately wants the job and Lynley recognizes that she was thrown into it feet first with this huge case, but she may have gone too far. Tensions run high in the incident room, and the wrong man gets accused of murder.
Fan favorites Simon St. James and his wife Deborah make appearances in this book, as do Barbara's neighbors Taymullah Azhar and his daughter Hadiyyah. It's these characters and their history with the principal players who really make Elizabeth George's mysteries come alive. Havers and Lynley seem like real people, with lives outside of work and friendships and histories that span decades. This Body of Death is one of George's best as she shows Lynley still dealing with wife Helen's death, and as she introduces Isabelle Ardery and her story, and as she lets the mystery and investigation unfold. New readers may be a little lost and might want to go back and read at least a couple of the first books in the series to get somewhat caught up with the background story, but readers who have followed Lynley and Havers from the beginning will not be disappointed. Definitely get your hands on this book if you like Elizabeth George.
From The Bellingham Herald
These all have sprung from the imagination of a former teacher-turned-writer whose Anglophilia and attention to detail take her from her Whidbey Island home to England several times a year so that she might properly research her novels. George's work is so authentic that it has been embraced by the British public and adapted for television by the BBC. And on this side of the pond, we readers are treated to a delicious immersion in English dialects, subcultures, and landscapes.
But there is a flip side. George, who has a master's degree in Counseling, is as obsessive about psychological complexities and as she is about physical detail - and readers are confronted with the tawdry and sometimes terrifying workings of her characters' psyches.
Such is the case with "This Body of Death," George's brand-new work, as she twines two apparently unrelated crimes through nearly 700 pages of plot.
The first story line echoes a real-life crime that occurred in England in 1993, when a toddler was abducted from his mother during a shopping trip, tortured, and murdered by a couple of 10-year-olds who'd been playing hooky from school. Frankly, I found this strand so deeply disturbing that I could scarcely bring myself even to skim it.
The second involves the murder of a young woman who had
come to London from the bucolic New Forest area in Hampshire, on
England's southern coast. Victim Jemima Hastings left behind a
doting older brother, an estranged best friend, and a rather
antisocial former lover who nonetheless has already taken up with
Investigation of the latter case is being shepherded by Isabelle Ardery, an ambitious but temporary department head who quells her insecurities with alcohol. Her roughshod management style is tolerated by the rest perhaps only because she has been able to talk Lynley into returning to the department when others could not. (He had taken leave, three books ago, following the murder of his own wife and unborn child by a juvenile gunman.)
An Italian mask maker, a schizophrenic street musician, a sage-burning psychic and a doggedly environmentalist landlady are some of the persons of interest in this case that ranges from the countryside to London and back again.Ardery, in over her head, makes disastrous decisions that bog down the investigation, but the department loyalists soldier on and Lynley's mentoring helps to keep things from derailing in this addictive procedural.
As always, George weaves in issues of
disenfranchisement and conscience. Readers will probably flinch at
some of the choices their favorite characters make, but it is
precisely that fallibility that keeps us coming back for more.
It is this London murder that has called former Superintendent of Detectives Thomas Lynley back to Scotland Yard from compassionate leave, where he has been walking the Cornish coastline for several months to emotionally recover from the murder of his wife and unborn child. The London Metro office has soldiered on without him, but just barely. When Lynley left, he made it clear he did not want to return to his job as Superintendent, and in fact was uncertain if he wanted to remain in law enforcement at all.
Isabelle Ardery, a driven, Alpha female who has come up through the ranks, is the latest candidate after several failed attempts to find a replacement. She boldly approaches Lynley with a pitch to help her not only solve the murder, but to steer her through the maze of running the London office, acting as her mentor. She is not shy about asking him to support her as the heir apparent. Office politics, always at the center of action at Scotland Yard HQ, move into high gear as the brass asks Lynley to report directly to them on Ardery’s actions and behavior. The lady comes
with a troubled past, including the discretely hidden but ever-present airline bottles of vodka clinking in her purse next to the breath mints. Lynley’s assessment will carry great weight on her future. Acting Superintendent Ardery gets off on the wrong foot by rankling Lynley’s longtime former partner, Barbara Havers, when she takes Havers’s casual home-cut hairdo and secondhand T-shirts and corduroy pants to task as "unprofessional attire." Havers’s charming nine-year old next-door neighbor girl comes to the rescue for an amusing aside in the lost cause of making over Havers.
As Lynley, Havers and Winston Nkata, Havers’s new partner, turn to solving the crime, they discover that the victim is the missing former girlfriend of a professional thatcher who restores the famous thatched roofs in the historic New Forest region of Hampshire. The girl’s brother, who works for the New Forest preserve, believes the former boyfriend is responsible for his sister’s death. Other characters who may have had reason to kill her come into play, offering a fascinating cast of artisans, mystics and buskers who drift between the quaint villages of Hampshire and the London tourist havens.
Most of the action is set in the New Forest at the southernmost tip of the heavily populated English coastline. First created by William the Conqueror in 1079 as a deer hunting park, its 200 square miles are dotted with small, quaint villages and most notably populated by its freely roving herds of ponies who graze the heath. Havers and Nkata, big-city coppers with small taste for the wilderness, find themselves in a foreign realm as they search for clues to the murder in the touristy villages and open pastures. Lynley stays behind in London to grapple with the sticky political wicket and to make a major decision about his future at Scotland Yard.
When you pick up an Elizabeth George novel, you get the whole package: a big, fat book, filled with social comment and historic background, expert pacing and suspense, and laced with a cadre of regular characters. These elements set George, the author of 16 bestselling Inspector Lynley mysteries, apart from the genre crowd. Others do it, and well --- P.D. James and James Lee Burke, to name just two --- who year after year produce the deeply satisfying reads for the mystery/suspense junkies
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