Auntie M had the distinct pleasure of taking a Masters Class in Beginnings with Elizabeth George last week at New England Crimebake. One of her favorite authors, George’s class was succinct and helpful. The diminutive wordsmith, who claims she is introverted, nevertheless charmed the entire audience over the three days she was there teaching, on panels, doing interviews and just being herself. She is an animal lover, another hit with Auntie M, and the two compared notes on her adorable Wire-haired Dachshund, Lucy, and Auntie M’s Italian Spinone, Radar, two opposite ends of the dog spectrum in size but not in jolly goodness.
George was generous with describing her writing process, which starts with the germ of an idea and victim as she explores her setting. Then she peoples that person’s world with other characters, creating long histories that in Auntie M’s screenwriting days were called “bibles.” Her plot unfolds from this and she’s off and writing a book for the satisfaction of readers, ones that have won her a deservedly huge following. Her newest is destined to keep her readers flipping pages.
George takes her time introducing the players: The Goldacre family consists of William and his girlfriend Lily; his brother Charlie and wife India, his mother Caroline, and her second husband, Alastair MacKerron. Their interaction is key to the events that take place some months leading up to William’s suicide, an event that precipitates extraordinary fallout, some of which overlaps into a case of poisoning in Cambridge that handed to Lynleys’ DS Barbara Havers manages to get herself assigned to investigate.
Still smarting from her hasty actions in the last book, Just One Evil Act, which took Havers and Lynley to Italy to the chagrin of Det. Superintendant Isabelle Ardery, Havers has a sword of Damocles hanging over her head: a signed transfer request Ardery has no intention of tearing up if it means Havers toes the line.
Chafing at the bit and hating the restrictions placed on her detecting, Havers begs Lynley to go to bat for her and have the poisoning case assigned to her. That he has to go around Ardery to do it doesn’t improve either of their positions with the Super. Havers is allowed to investigate with a reluctant DS Winston Nkata at her side, yet the duo end up working their investigative magic as the case comes together in a most unexpected way.
The plot is complex, as are the personalities of the characters involved. The dead boy’s mother in particular is a pushy drama queen who never fails to keep the attention on her. There are side affairs, past secrets held and revealed, marriages fractured. There will be time for Lynley to ponder and pursue his relationship with the veterinarian, Daidre, and even a little dog, Arlo, who captures everyone’s heart except that of the Superintendent. One interesting subplot has Ardery’s secretary, the well-put-togehter Dee Harriman, deciding to take Havers under her wing and give her something of a life outside her work.
The final twist falls to the reader, one that will leave them pondering what is true justice and if it has been well served. An intriguing mystery with more than its share of tension and revelations. Highly recommended.