Pros: Tight plot, plenty of intertwining subplots, and some pretty dark matters.
Cons: Some truly distasteful subjects.
One of the authors that I will jettison everything else for is Elizabeth George. I've been gleefully reading her Inspector Lynley novels since the early 1990's and while there's been a few meh moments for me, usually I can count on them to give me a good, complicated read set in contemporary England with all sorts of dark doings of the human psyche.
Believing the Lie is the seventeen Inspector Lynley novel, and continuing on the series. While Thomas Lynley is trying to cope with the loss of his wife Helen to a teenage murderer, and Barbara Havers has gotten the nasty shock of Hadiyyah's mother turning up, there's the problems that both of them are having with Isabelle Ardery, acting Superintenant of their division of Scotland Yard. Lynley has been carrying on a physical affair with Isabelle, to the satisfaction of them both, something that is conditional on Isabelle's sobriety, while Barbara is having to deal with the fact that her wardrobe and appearance meets with Ardery's disapproval. To say that these relationships are difficult is an understatement.
Thomas is called to the north of England, by an industrial baron, Bernard Fairclough, a manufacturer of bathroom fixtures and porcelain, to investigate an accident on the family estate of Ireleth Hall. Ian Cresswell, a relation and one of the directors of the business, has been found in the boathouse, his head bashed in. It could be an accident, or it could have been murder.
And there are a host of suspects too. For Ian has been living with Kaveh Mehran, his sexual partner, and someone who is viewed as an interloper at best. Living with Ian is Ian's two children, Tim, a very angry young preteen who is prone to acting out, and Gracie, a sweet little girl who is still, thankfully, innocent. The children's mother, Niamh, cares little for her children, perferring to spend her time in activities in things best left unsaid -- and having Ian raise them. That's understandable, considering that Ian is a homosexual, and Niamh hates him for divorcing her.
The three children of Bernard Fairclough and his wife Vivian, are just as complicated. The twins, Mignon and Manette, can barely conceal their dislike of each other. Mignon is a twisted bit of work, full of sly induenndo and Internet dating, while Manette is trying to put the pieces together after the divorce from her husband Freddie. She's concerned about her young cousins, Tim and Gracie, but doesn't seem to be able to get anywhere with them.
And then there's Nicholas, the youngest. Nicholas is one of those walking disasters, having been through endless stints of rehab and relaspe. But now he has returned to Cumbria with the beautiful wife that he acquired in the States, Alatea. His father has showered money on him, in the hopes that the rehab is taking this time.
To help him uncover these people and their secrets, Lynley brings with him Simon and Deborah St. James, but not Barbara Havers. Simon is there for his foresnic knowledge, and to puzzle out if the stones in the boathouse were helped along. Deborah's situation is a tad more difficult; her cover is that she is working on a documentary about the pele tower that Nicholas is rebuilding as a rehabilitation project for twelve-steppers caught up in alcohol and drug abuse. But it is Alatea that Deborah feels the closest tie to, one that will put both women at risk, and jepordise the investigation itself.
Interspersed with all of this is Zedekiah Benjamin, a six foot eight, redheaded journalist from London, struggling to get his story past his editor at a notorious tabloid, The Source. The story isn't going well, and Zed is struggling with the attempts of his pushy Jewish mother to get him married off. It's a relief for him to head back the Lakes District, but the story is floundering for lack of a tabloid twist to boost sales. Zed's story makes for a good subplot, and gives the story some of the few touches of humour.
Mignon, I have to say, is one of the most godawful characters I've ever come across. All out opportunist and possessed of a nasty mind and mouth, she was always hovering around the edges, ready to spew malice at a moment's notice. Fortunately Manette isn't as awful, and really comes through at the end, not to mention Freddie, who's one of the most pragmatic and sensible characters that I've come across in the entire series.
Speaking of the series, Ms. George has certainly pulled out of her slump that came with With No One as Witness, and What Came Before He Shot Her. Here, we're back to a straight-up thriller, and plenty of insight and double crosses. She has also switched publishers as well. The story is well crafted, and kept me guessing throughout, and each of the various characters have plenty of dimension and style to them. While a few are pretty one dimensional, especially Mignon and Niamh, I was very much caught up with Tim and Alatea's stories in particular.
Be warned that some of the content in here is pretty strong, and has some pretty sordid descriptions along with it. Child pornography is a subplot here, and one that frankly, made me nearly ill to read about. However, it's not being used spuriously here either, and the use of it is actually well done. If you can handle that, then it shouldn't be a problem.
Overall, this gets five stars from me, and if it is any indication of what's coming up for 2012, this should be a good year for fiction.
Novels in the Inspector Lynley/Sargeant Havers series:
A Great Deliverance
Payment in Blood
A Suitable Vengeance
Well-Schooled in Murder
For the Sake of Elena
Playing for the Ashes
In the Presence of the Enemy
Deception on His Mind
In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner
A Place of Hiding
A Traitor to Memory
With No One As Witness
What Came Before He Shot Her
Careless in Red
This Body of Death
Believing the Lie -- You are here
Just One Evil Act
For a quick glance at the entire series, click An Overview of the Inspector Lynley novels.
Many thanks to Pestyside for adding this title to the database for me.
Believing the Lie
2012; Dutton Books