Elizabeth George , Believing the Lie.
I had never heard of Elizabeth George but was motivated to seek her out after shamelessly eavesdropping on a conversation between two well read friends.
“I have the latest Elizabeth George from the Library” said the most well read woman I know . Her tone was one of delicious anticipation, and the coos of approval from the recipient of this information only made me more curious. Who was this Elizabeth George and what was her hold over my dear and respected friend? As Maman was visiting the Library the very next day, I made sure to whisper this ‘hot tip’ in her ear. Regular readers will know that Dear Maman is a huge fan of crime fiction. It engrosses her. Should I ever suddenly disappear in mysterious circumstances it will surely be because she has finally worked out the perfect way to do away with me-without getting caught. Her gentle nature has an alarming dark side..but enough on that. Dear Maman did not let me down, within a matter of hours I was settled in getting to know Ms Elizabeth George.
‘Inspector Lynley is back’ we are told before we even open the hefty tome of 600 pages or so. The fact I had never met Inspector Lynley wasn’t a problem I deduced. I’d catch up as I went along. Inspector “Tommy Lynley” 8th Earl of Asherton is descended from a long line of aristocratic English peers think Lord Peter Wimsey( Dorothy L Sayers), sensitive of soul, think Adam Dalgleish( the peerless PD James) or the current object of my lustful affections, Simon Serailler( Susan Hill) who have rather inexplicably become ‘coppers’.
Lynley is a widower, who is now involved in an ethically dubious and necessarily almost totally secret sexual relationship with his alcoholic and emotionally out of control superior Superintendent Isabelle Ardrey. Add in Barbara Havers,Lynley’s Detective Sergeant and close friends Simon and Deborah St James and this is Lynley’s life. His unborn child died tragically along with his wife Helen a couple of volumes before I stumbled upon them.
Numerous plots, sub plots and twists abound, Lynley is asked by a superior to secretly investigate a drowning that could be murder in Cumbria, add to that a wealthy dysfunctional family in all their mutations and there you have it. The outcome is prosaic at best. And this is the thing. While Elizabeth George writes well and indeed I would not hesitate to pick up other volumes in the series, other people do it better( see above). The books are well researched, the characters all too human but there’s an inherent lack of depth & veracity that simply starts to bother one eventually. These are perfect books for long plane flights, snowy weekends or when one wants to relax.‘Tommy” may be gentle and lovely but he is neither a poet ( Dalgleish) nor a painter( Serrailler). He’s suffered the same kinds of personal tragedies as Dalgliesh & Serailler , but this simply doesn’t register with the reader in the same way( and why must coppers have such rubbish love lives?To make it easier for their female readers to pine for them I suppose). Lynley’s a bit, dare I say it, boring.The gradually unfolding denouements to various plot strands left me unsurprised and unmoved. Which is a tragedy in itself when George’s universe of human fecklessness and cruelty is revealed.And there my friends is the lesson,DON”T EAVESDROP. On the upside I now know much more about pele towers than before, including what they are….…fascinating.