Careless in Red by Elizabeth George

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Careless in Red by Elizabeth George

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Inspector Lynley makes a welcome return in a story set in Cornwall where the death of a teenager in a climbing accident proves to be murder. D S Barbara Havers comes into her own in this tale of grief and revenge. Recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 576 Date: February 2009
Publisher: Hodder
ISBN: 978-0340978368

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It's not yet three months since the murder of his wife and unborn child and Thomas Lynley isn't even beginning to cope. Despairing of being in places where he can picture Helen he takes to the South-West Coast Path in Cornwall. Some six weeks into the walk, dirty, dishevelled and unkempt, he sees a climber fall to his death and Lynley's old life with New Scotland Yard is forced onto him when it becomes obvious that this is no accident, but murder.

I had to work a little at this book, which doesn't usually happen with Elizabeth George, but that was down to the unfamiliar Cornish first names. Cador, Dellen, Benesek and Selevan flitted through the pages and I struggled to keep track of who was who and occasionally who was male and who was female. But I persevered and I'm glad that I did, particularly as Cornwall plays such an important part in the story.

It's a Cornwall where the tin mining industry is all but dead and tourism and particularly surfing plays such a large part in the local economy. Santo Kerne is the son of Benesek and Dellen and sister to Kerra. The family is converting an old hotel to provide adventure holidays when he dies in the fall from the cliff and each of the family deals with his death in their own way. His mother, Dellen, is sexually predatory and cares little about what her family knows or thinks of her actions. In a small community everyone knows everyone else's business.

It's Lynley who's the star of the book though. As first on the scene he's initially a suspect but once his background is known the local officer in charge of the investigation, D I Beatrice Hannaford, loses no time in roping him in to supplement her meagre resources. Lynley had been a Superintendent and technically outranks her, but he's in the odd situation of not knowing quite what his position is. He resigned from the police after Helen's death but it seems the resignation might not have been accepted. Where do his loyalties lie? He seems to treat a local vet, Daidre Trahair, with more sympathy than would be normal and doesn't pass on information when he knows that she is lying about Santo Kerne.

Lynley's former partner, D S Barbara Havers, makes a welcome appearance when she's sent to assist in the murder enquiry. I warmed to her more in this book than I have in earlier novels mainly because her interaction with Bea Hannaford seemed more realistic than her relationship with Lynley has ever done. For the first time I saw her as a character in her own right rather than as Lynley's sidekick.

Grief is a strange emotion, seemingly overwhelming but eventually it will fade and we see Lynley take the first tentative steps back into a world without Helen and his unborn child as work and the puzzle of quite why Santo Kerne was murdered takes over at least part of his brain. And it is quite a puzzle with some ingenious twists and a solution which I didn't see coming. After a slow start to the book I was completely involved with the characters and towards the end it turned into a gripping page-turner.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Aristocratic Lynley might not be to everyone's taste, but if you're a fan of police procedurals then we think that you might enjoy White Nights by Ann Cleeves.

Elizabeth George's Inspector Lynley Novels in Chronological Order

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Ann said:

After many years of enormous pleasure derived from the novels of Elizabeth George, my reaction to Careless in Red was not, as usual, regret at my reaching its conclusion, but relief that I had actually arrived there! Not for me alas, one of her most enjoyable. As ever Miss George’s characterisation is impeccable, but I found the multi-faceting and the novel’s length somewhat irritating and at times tedious.

What one wonders can explain the author’s descent into obscene, offensive language? One doubts that the characters as described, would speak so. Miss George is a best-selling author and is so without originally resorting to the prevailing vulgarity of language within parts of society, and sadly increasingly so within modern literature.

Miss George is American, and one can only gasp with admiration at her descriptive prowess, and guess at the research employed to authenticate her geographical locations in this country - we English however, do not call our policemen and women 'cop' or 'cops'. Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers would never say 'cop' – they would say 'officer', 'policeman', 'constable' even 'copper' or 'bobby', and Barbara would occasionally say 'Sir', but 'cop' is Americanese and another irritation!

Despite my present disappointment, I do of course, await Miss George’s next novel with great anticipation.