Don’t let the length of over seven hundred pages deter you from plunging into Elizabeth George’s new novel, Just One Evil Act. The eighteenth Inspector Lynley novel will leave readers knowing much more than a few Italian phrases once they’ve finished this tome.    images_012

The action centers on the reaction of Lynley’s sergeant, Barbara Havers, to the news her handsome neighbor’s daughter has disappeared.

Havers’ friendship with the girl, Hadiyyah Upman, and her father, microbiolgist Taymullah Azhar, has grown over the two years the duo were the detective’s neighbors.  In the last installment, Believing the Lie, Hadiyyah’s mother had waltzed back into her daughter’s life, surprising the girl, her father, and Havers, all seduced by the woman’s easy manner and ability to fabricate a believable friendship. Angelina Upman is a complicated woman keeping multiple secrets, a beauty whose family has disowned her for having a child with the married Pakistani scientist.

Months pass with no word on the child’s whereabouts, despite Havers’ digging and helping Azhar hire a private detective.

Then Hadiyyah is kidnapped from a market in Lucca, Italy, where she’s been with her mother and Angelina’s fiance. Desperate to help Azhar, worried for the child, Havers makes the fatal mistake of enlisting a tabloid journalist to force the British police to become involved in the British citizen’s abduction. To her dismay, it is Lynley who is sent to Italy to liaise with the British family.

This splendidly plotted novel takes readers to Italy, introducing their very different policing system, and the wily detective Salvatore Lo Bianco. While Italian phrases liberally dot these scenes, George cleverly manages to convey their meaning without direct translations. The intriguing setting is well-described and adds another layer to this complex novel.

In London, Havers finds herself embroiled deeper and deeper into career-killing choices. On the personal front, Lynley is trying to convince himself he is starting to put his wife’s death behind him, and finds himself drawn to an unsuitable zoo veterinarian. His past fling with Superintendent Isabelle Ardery confuses everything, and will impact heavily on Havers’ future.

At one point readers will think the novel has reached its climax right in its middle, only to find that what would have been an ending for another writer is merely a step into the convoluted story that continues to branch off and have fingers reaching right into the lives of all these characters on different levels. At one point a resolution will appear completely out of sight, yet there is an ending that will satisfy readers, even as it does not satisfy every character.

This is a multi-layered story of love and betrayal, and what lengths we will choose when the heart is involved.