REVIEWS - I, RICHARD
"Elizabeth George is at the top of her game, having won every major mystery award for her novels (including A Great Deliverance and A Traitor to Memory), and with her work being dramatized for PBS's Mystery! series. Now she offers her first collection of short fiction in the U.S., containing three revised versions of older stories and two new pieces, plus illuminating introductions by the author to all five tales.
George's stories are a skilled exploration of the dark minds of ordinary people contemplating the worst of crimes. "Exposed" concerns a university course on the history of British architecture, during which an adult student suspiciously dies while roaming Abinger Manor. George's beloved detective Thomas Lynley happens to be on hand and immediately sets to work solving the case. The title piece "I, Richard," is a gratifying tale centering on an impoverished historian who's spent years pursuing a letter written by Richard III on the eve of the Battle of Bosworth. His passion grows into an obsession and soon drives him to the very edge of insanity. In "The Surprise of His Life" -- an innovative take on the archetypal tale of a husband planning the murder of his wife -- George uses all of her inventiveness and subtlety to spin pure gold from a standard plot of the mystery genre.
In I, Richard, Elizabeth George digs deep into the ugliest tendencies of human nature and lays them bare with a beautiful and lyrical narrative voice. Here you'll find chills, irony, and powerful satire that will hook you from the opening page -- a royal feast of thrills and suspense written by the queen of British mystery. Tom Piccirilli"
"In her first story collection, eminent British author George (A Traitor to Memory) presents five nimbly written and gripping tales, each with a stunning conclusion. "Exposure" concerns declining sexual prowess, as gossipy architecture students speculate about Polly Simpson, who is suspiciously friendly with elderly men touring Abinger Manor, where one oldster dies mysteriously just as some historic silverware is stolen. In "The Surprise of His Life," high-powered CEO Douglas Armstrong, obsessively jealous and mistrustful of his young wife, learns too late that she's planning an astonishing final surprise for both him and the reader. Similarly, a young widow in "Remember I'll Always Love You" is horrified to discover the secret double life led by her late husband, purportedly a sales director for a biotech firm, but in reality something far more sinister. A melancholy tone pervades "Good Fences Aren't Always Enough," in which an elderly Russian refugee, Anfisa, scandalizes her socially conscious neighbors in fashionable East Wingate with her determination to live life her own way. In the title story, ambitious and murderous schoolteacher Malcolm Cousins is determined to perpetuate the reputation of his hero, Richard III, while also absconding with the wife and substantial legacy of a former school chum. A brooding, gloomy dust jacket suggests gothic themes, but the tales are thoroughly modern in setting and subject. (Oct. 29) Forecast: Advertising in national newspapers and magazines as well as holiday catalogs, plus NPR sponsorship announcements, should help sales approach those of the author's novels."
"George, author of the deservedly popular Thomas Lynley/Barbara Havers mysteries, tries her hand at the short story form with this collection of five tales. Each story is introduced by George, who describes how she came to write it. "Exposure" is a condensed version of a Thomas Lynley mystery, while both "The Surprise of His Life" and the title story mix horror with humor to portray the desperate acts of men at mid-life, ending with a wittily vindictive twist that will appeal to fans of Ruth Rendell. "Good Fences Aren't Always Enough" probes a clash between a fiercely family-oriented young mother and her new neighbor, an aging, eccentric Russian immigrant. In "Remember I'll Always Love You," Charlie Lawton, a grieving young widow, sets out to find her deceased husband's estranged family and discovers a deadly secret. George, whose last novel, A Traitor to Memory, ran to nearly 800 pages, excels at writing in a more condensed way. Satisfying and memorable, this collection is highly recommended for most public libraries."
"From the opening "Exposure" to
the concluding title story, George demonstrates that she is a modern, female
version of Saki or O. Henry - clever with her hands fashioning intricate plots,
but quick on her feet with making it seem that everything in the parlor is
perfectly normal - as long as you don't open the cellar door."
"...George is dizzyingly
gifted at tickling readers with suspense before she smacks them with resolutions
that are nasty but appropriate. The final scene of "Remember, I'll
Always Love You,"...will leave you dizzy, dazzled and dying for more."
"Until now, no one has
expected Miss George ... to attempt, yet alone excel at the short story.
But 'I, Richard,' her first collection of short stories, begins to fill that
cavity in her body of work. The collection, which contains five stories, might
even win her some new readers."
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