REVIEWS: BELIEVING THE
The Ann Arbor News
Inspector Lynley novel by Elizabeth George is impossible to put down.
I am a died-in-the-wool, absolutely hooked, totally smitten
Elizabeth George fan. Ever since I read and inhaled her wonderful
first novel, A Great Deliverance, I haven't looked back. Until...
And every Elizabeth George fan knows what I am talking about. Until
she took her main character, Inspector Lynley, on the dark path of
losing his wife and unborn child in With No One as Witness. The
following three books were either really difficult and hard to take
(What Came Before He Shot Her) or else just not quite up to par.
Unlike some of her readers, I actually thought What Came Before He
Shot Her was a wonderful book, it was just very, very painful. With
this latest book, George seems to be again embracing those elements
that made her career - a wealthy, dysfunctional family; an
interesting setting; Lynley somewhat recovered from grief and
therefore functional; and Barbara Havers getting a new hair cut on
the orders of her new boss (this completes a makeover begun in the
last book). Also making a return are Simon St. James and his wife
Deborah. It’s nice to find the old team back in place.
And the storytelling, in this book, doesn’t let up or let go. I
finished this six hundred plus page book in just four days. The new
book is set in the Lake District, with it’s treacherous landscape
and beautiful views of Lake Windermere. Front and center are the
apparently functional Fairclough family, who have asked that Lynley
investigate the recent drowning death of their nephew, Ian, on the
quiet. Lynley’s highest up boss makes the request and he can hardly
refuse, so, leaving Havers back in London (big sigh) he instead sets
off with St. James (a forensic expert) and Deborah as back up.
George has a few themes she touches on in this book, but the two
front and center ones are addiction and infertility. The
Fairclough’s ne'er-do-well son, Nicholas, has returned to the fold
after a long battle with drug addiction. He’s sober, married, and
helping other addicts with a project on the grounds of his parents'
estate. His parents, Bernard and Valerie, own a large and well known
plumbing fixture firm.
Also working for the firm are Bernard’s daughter Manette, and her ex
husband, Freddie; and living on the estate is the Fairclough’s
crippled and homebound daughter, Mignon. All have distinct
personalities (and problems); one of the problems facing Nicholas’
wife, Alatea, appears to be infertility, and as it’s one Deborah and
St. James are also dealing with, Deborah begins to fixate somewhat
As the title implies, there are all kinds of lies that all the
characters have been living with and accepting for quite some time;
the longer Lynley is there, the more these lies and cover ups come
to light. One of the central storylines concerns the dead man’s
children - he had left his wife for a male partner, and his tweenage
son is acting out in all kinds of ways. Worse, the children are left
with the surviving partner as their own mother seems to have no
interest in them.
While the themes of infertility and addiction are central to the
book — in another way, they are not. What George is truly interested
in is peeling back the layers of this dysfunctional family, applying
her typically concise yet thorough look at each character. Parts of
the book are heartbreaking, though she must be mellowing a bit as
she ages, as some of the characters actually end up happier than
when they started out.
I had a slight issue with the resolution of the central death — and
I felt this book could certainly have been shorter, but I’ll admit,
I loved every minute of it. I loved seeing one of my favorite
writers back to top form, and if the book was maybe a little long
and the ending wasn't quite right, I still couldn't put it down.
Next time, though, more Havers, please. She has her own story line
in this book, but it's not a big enough one, and she and Lynley
aren't working together in the same place. All in all, though, for
the Elizabeth George fan — or any fan of the well-written,
intelligent, character-driven novel — I’d say, dig in.
Robin Agnew is the co-owner of Aunt Agatha's Books in Ann Arbor.
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