In her latest novel, Elizabeth George writes a complicated plot that brings her wounded inspector, Thomas Lynley, to England’s glorious Lake District to conduct an undercover investigation. Still grieving over the deaths of his wife Helen and their unborn child, Lynley’s efforts to move ahead are causing him to question his actions in several quarters.

Wealthy Bernard Fairclough’s nephew has drowned, and his death has been ruled an accidental drowning. Yet through his highly-placed contacts at New Scotland Yard, the influential Lord manages to arrange for a discreet inquiry to determine if the death was really an accident, and Lynley finds himself summarily dispatched incognito to Cumbria. He’s tasked with determining whether Fairclough’s son, Nicholas, a reformed drug and alcohol addict, might be responsible for loosening the boathouse stones on which the unlucky Ian Fairclough slipped and fell to his death.

The coroner thinks not, but Lynley has asked his old friend, forensic specialist Simon St. James, and his photographer wife, Deborah, to nose around, hoping to find any evidence of foul play. Back in London, DS Havers is engaged in off-the-record research for Lynley, which will have its own affect on her position and put her an uncomfortable position with her superior. Her private life gets a good work out here, too.

There is plenty for all of them to investigate in the dysfunctional Faircloughs, who include: Fairclough’s distinctly different twin daughters, Manette and Mignon; his nephew Ian’s angry son Tim and sexually active ex-wife Niamh; as well as the man Ian left his family for, the foreign-born Kaveh. Add to the mix the Lord’s daughter-in-law, the beautiful and secretive Argentinean wife of Nicholas, Alatea, and there are scores of possibilities, real and imagined. Muddying the landscape is a tabloid reporter sent to find a sex scandal when he’d rather be writing poetry.

The Cumbrian landscape plays its part in the action, as deeply buried secrets will rise to the surface, with deception and delusion found to be at the heart of too many lives. Homophobia, infidelity, illegitimacy and greed all surface, but it is Deborah St. James, dealing with her own infertility and feeling a kinship to Alatea, who sets in motion the final tragedy.

Themes and subplots abound in this weighty tome, just over six hundred pages, that has a melodramatic feel at times that will try some readers patience. But fans will enjoy a few twists of the regular cast’s lives, and devour every page.

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