Almost too intricately plotted, but an absorbing good read nonetheless. The Ugly American tourists were a stereotypical--and unnecessary--distraction, but the central relationship between the aristocratic Inspector Thomas Lynley and his hapless partner, the troubled, testy Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers, is well written and believably presented.
Havers is an especially compelling character, she of the unflattering hair and ill-fitting , off-the-peg clothes; she is so vividly rendered she fairly leaps off the page. Her insecurities and hair-trigger temper tests your patience (just as finally they test Thomas's) yet you feel for Barbara, for her struggles with her aging child-parents and her desperation to belong and succeed. You root for her to find the right way forward, and hope for Barbara and Thomas to forge a friendship that will anchor and steady them both.
As the plot untangles you also root for the three tormented women at the heart of the story, unspeakably victimized and betrayed by both man and church.
I'd gladly give the book five stars except the system cancelled my rating every time I tried to!! Maybe the computer has less respect for the author's talent than I do. Anyway, stellar work. The narrative prose is very good. Not quite as rich as Erin Hart, but darn close to it. The characters were so real they bordered on "next door neighbors!" Except for the American couple. I can't believe that even the Brits believe in that parody of the "ugly American." They get our TV shows, just as we get theirs, and we reveal the boring as well as the glamourous and/or obnoxious. Nor are all of us as "in your face" as tourists either. Still, a little comic relief in a work, as gravid with tragedy as this one is, is probably a good thing, as Shakespeare himself was aware. As he knew, one can only deal out just so much dysfunction to an audience before they give up or become suicidal. I think we've become the American Falstaff. The tale is very dark, and gets more so as one gets into it. This author, like others recently, has used our expectations of "button" words against us to misdirect. For a first book, she does so skillfully. However, that said, I would say the book isn't quite for everybody. If you're inclined to be easily offended, I'd give it a miss.
I found this novel became part of my everyday life until I had finished it. I found the characters to be very believable with a very intricate story line weaving them all together. I can't wait to read all of Elizabeth George's novels, even though murder mysteries were never one of my favourite genres.
I've finally read an E. George mystery and I have now found a new favorite author. I will definitely be reading more and more and more of her mysteries.
If you are a fan of intelligent mystery writing, this series is definitely for you. Elizabeth George writes wonderful characters and almost never hits a false note with any of them. This is true of both the transient characters who appear as part of each story and of the on-going ones. The interplay between the two main detectives and the people in their lives is particularly well done. I would recommend that the series be read in order as much as possible because of the evolving storylines in their personal lives. There are surprises twists and turns which are spoiled if you already know how things turn out.
I enjoyed the establishing of the main characters more than the plot, and am looking forward to other books in the series.
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