Orlando Sentinel (Florida)


British writer Elizabeth George always can be relied on to produce multilayered stories that focus on more than just crime and punishment while providing seductive glimpses of the inbred lifestyles and prejudices of the English upperclasses.

In With No One As Witness (Harper Collins, $26.95), the aristocratic Scotland Yard Inspector Thomas Lynley and his distinctly working-class sergeant Barbara Havers deal with race relations, love, loss, grief, loyalty and blind ambition.

Someone is targeting black youths, laying their bodies out in a ritual manner at different spots across London. At first no one links the deaths, but when the killer chooses a white boy as a victim the case finally makes headlines.

Lynley is named to head the investigation, along with a black detective sergeant, Winston Nkata, who suspects and resents that he has been assigned to the case to quell accusations of racism being leveled at Scotland Yard's hierarchy.

In a questionable bid to win favorable publicity, Lynley's boss decides to allow a journalist from a popular London daily to be "embedded" with the investigative team. It is a move that infuriates the killer and results in tragic consequences for Lynley.

At 630 pages, George's novel is not a quick read. Each character is developed with care and skill, building tensions, many of which have nothing to do with the killings. Lynley, for instance, is also dealing with his inept boss and helping his wife, Lady Helen, prepare for the birth of their first child.

In With No One as Witness, George provides plenty to ponder as she explores some of London's toughest districts far from the tourist delights of Bond Street and Mayfair. But nothing in George's novel is more powerful than the painful conclusion.

Copyright 2005 Sentinel Communications Co.