Auntie M has been on vacation, first to visit the four Minnesota Grands, all growing like weeds. She’s been to hockey, lacrosse, soccer and swimming practices and games. And she’s been delighted to giggle with four of the smartest and wittiest grandchildren around. After a nice long visit, it was off to Utah for the annual Screw Iowa Workshop.

Once again, the Power of Five came into action, reading and critiquing the first draft of 100 pages of the next Nora Tierney novel (working title The Green Remains). Dedicated to bringing our unique workshop program to authors everywhere, we’ve decided to bring The End of the Book: Writing in the Twenty-First Century out in softcover. I’ll keep you updated on the news, and as always, our website continues to bring you blogs and news, Hooks, and From the Masters: http://www.screwiowa.com.

Flying out west afforded Auntie M plenty of undisturbed reading time. I couldn’t wait to get settled and to crack the cover of Elizabeth George’s newest, This Body of Death.

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The 16th of the Inspector Lynley series finds the Earl still grieving the murder of his wife and unborn child. He is coaxed back to work on the murder of a young woman found dead in a deserted graveyard by the strong woman now working in his shoes as Acting Superintendant. Isabelle Ardery has her own issues, not the least of which are the little bottles of vodka she sneaks in and out of her purse.

The story is parsed out between supposed-excerpts of a psychologist’s sociological treatise, describing the backgrounds of three young boys sent to prison for murdering a toddler. Based on the real horrific incident in Britain when three youths coaxed a toddler out of a fast-food restaurant, his torture and murder are chillingly and almost antiseptically described. The reader catches on soon enough that one of the three youths is part of the current story.

Lynley’s team is present, all with varying responses to Acting Super. Ardery.  Sgt. Barbara Havers, my favorite, is hounded into a makeover of sorts. An unlikely (and I felt forced), relationship springs up between Lynley and Isabelle. Various members of the team act out and destroy the cohesiveness a murder investigation requires.

The investigation takes the reader into New Forest, where wild ponies roam, and in and out of London, and has as many twists and turns as the usual George novel. There’s even an appearance by the St. James’. As much as I admired the actual mystery, the length of this novel (over 650 pages) felt too long, with the appearance of some of our old favorite secondary characters tacked on.

I’m grumbling because this is the second George novel where the sociological interests of the story have trumped the mystery (What Came Before He Shot Her was pure social issue rant). For me George is at her best when she focuses on the mystery and the lives of her characters she has spent years painstakingly building for her readers.

Am I being too severe to wish she would leave sociological stories to the social workers? Any murder has   sociological overtones, but these novels seem to hit us over the head with the implications, and I for one, am unhappy. The question is: do readers have any right to question an author’s choices?

What say you??

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