The Richmond Times Dispatch

An extended family whose foundation is built on lies risks inevitable collapse as secrets are revealed, truth emerges and relationships are frayed to and beyond the breaking point.

Such emotional turbulence is the focus of "Believing the Lie," the accomplished Elizabeth George's 17th novel featuring aristocratic Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley, in private life the Earl of Asherton, still mourning the senseless street murder of his pregnant wife, Helen, but showing signs of recovery.

When Assistant Commissioner David Hillier summons Lynley to his private club, he introduces him to Bernard Fairclough, a wealthy industrialist from England's Lake District who wants the investigation into the death of his nephew and valued employee, Ian Cresswell, reopened but quietly. Ian was found dead in the Fairclough boathouse, having apparently slipped on loose stones while getting out of his scull, hit his head on the dock, lost consciousness and drowned. The death has been ruled accidental, but Bernard wants a new inquiry. And, Hillier demands, Lynley must not tell his superior (and occasional lover), Detective Superintendent Isabelle Ardery, of his mission and must not reveal that he's a cop.

Accompanied by longtime friends Simon (a forensic scientist) and Deborah (a photographer) St. James, and with longtime partner Detective Sgt. Barbara Havers remaining in London and ready to help, Lynley travels north and soon finds a surfeit of suspects:

Kaveh Mehran, the younger man for whom the 40-year-old Ian left the closet and his wife. With same-sex marriage legal in the U.K., Ian wants to wed, but Kaveh is hesitant. And Kaveh is the beneficiary of Ian's will.

Niamh Cresswell, Ian's vengeful and bone-selfish former wife, who shows little interest in their two children, troubled adolescent Tim and younger daughter Gracie.

Valerie Fairclough, Bernard's wife and the power behind his business, and the person who, seemingly unruffled, called the police when Ian's body was found.

Nicholas Fairclough, Bernard and Valerie's son, who seems to have overcome a long history of methamphetamine abuse and has brought his wife, exotic Argentinean Alatea, a fiercely private person, home to England with him.

Mannette and Mignon, Bernard and Valerie's twin daughters. Idle Mignon, who suffered a head injury when young, disrespects her parents but willingly accepts their money. Mannette and her former husband, Freddie McGhie, remain best friends and housemates. Both work for the family business and may be angling to leap over Ian as Bernard's putative successor.

George Cowley, Ian's tenant farmer and a man who feels cheated that he was unable to purchase the farm. He's a single dad to teenage son Daniel.

Into this potentially deadly mix come Lynley and the St. Jameses, all of whom bring their own griefs with them: Lynley his sorrow over Helen, Simon and Deborah their differences over having a child. Deborah is unable to carry to term, but where she favors surrogacy, Simon advocates adoption. And the child-bearing issue will resonate within the Fairclough family.

Further complicating matters is the presence of Zedekiah Benjamin, a tabloid reporter who desperately wants a front-page story and with whom Deborah forms a dangerous alliance. As the secrets begin to crack, the Fairclough clan turns on itself, and terrible truths surface that threaten more than one life.

George, a writer of immense power, keen intelligence and profound sensitivity, again crafts a clever story with fascinating subplots including a particularly moving one involving Barbara's neighbor Hari Azhar and his young daughter, Hadiyyah.

But storytelling is far from George's only strength. Her ability to continually enhance the portraits of Lynley, Havers and other recurring characters while generating fully fleshed new ones for each novel is nothing less than superlative, and her atmospheric prose, complete with lovely and detailed descriptions of her setting, combine to add literary gravitas to her work.

Put together, George's many skills merge in "Believing the Lie," a worthy addition to her portfolio and one that simultaneously disturbs and satisfies. For in writing of lies, George reveals truths about the human condition, and she does so with compassion.

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