Dutton Adult, ISBN 97805255952589
January 10, 2012, 624 pages
Back for the seventeenth time..yes, 17...is Inspector Thomas Lynley's and his regular cast of characters, including Simon and Deborah St. James and the ever loyal assistant, Barbara Havers. This time he is on a secret mission, to investigate the apparently accidental death of one Ian Cresswell, nephew and heir apparent of the very wealthy and very influential Bernard Fairclough. For reason that are not entire clear or convincing, Mr. Fairclough wants the death looked into, unofficially, and has the influence to convince the head of Scotland Yard to assign one of his best to look into it.
And let's just say that once they start digging into that family, they better be wearing their hip boots, because things are going to get quite nasty. Certainly, there appears to be any number of reasons why Ian might have been killed and any numbers of people who might benefit from his death and the further Lynley and the rest dig, the more possibilities arise. But still, was it murder? Sadly, by the end of the book, I barely cared.
George's books tend to be rather complex stories, and that is not a bad thing. But this book goes far, far further down that path, to the point that I think it got lost in the weeds.
I have said it before, but a huge tome makes me rather suspicious, and with this one weighing in at 600 pages, there is cause. Sometimes it is a matter of too much material, that you could almost make two books of it. But in this case it is a matter of too much matter, pages after page that just ramble on and should have been cut. In fact, there are a storyline or two, of many, that might have been cut, like the one of the giant reporter and his mother's matchmaking. The giant aside, bigger is not always better. Too many storylines, too many characters, several of them boring , several of them distasteful, all in need of a serious editor.
I have never been a big fan of Deborah and she does not prove me wrong in this book, doing something which one might argue results in someone death. But even my favorites do not come across too well in this one. Yes, Thomas is a grieving widower and has to get on with his life but his affair with his boss is distasteful and out of character. And poor Barbara is relegated to spending most of the book worrying about her haircut and her wardrobe. Oh, how far we have fallen.
But maybe the biggest problem is with the implausibility of the central story. There is an attempt to have it explained at the end, but it falls short in my opinion.
Why all this need for the investigation to be secret? Why the need for it to be secret even from Lynley's boss, with the problems it causes? And why in the world would Deborah and St. James go off for an endless amount of time..ok, maybe it just seemed like an endless amount of time ...to bumble about, really seeming to figure little out. And the final dash of pedophilia, well, I guess we need that to seem timely these days. I must admit that toward the end I started to skip ahead. I was curious as to the solution but was tiring of slogging along to get there.
As I said, I have enjoyed several of George's books before, but this one fell far short of what I remember that made them enjoyable. I think fans who feel compelled to read her latest will be disappointed and would not recommend that readers who have heard good things about this series start with this one.
In fact, start with the first and stop before you get here.
My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a review copy of this book.