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Careless in Red: A Novel (Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers Novels)by Elizabeth George
Synopses & Reviews
In her most eagerly anticipated novel yet, Elizabeth George brings back Scotland Yard's Thomas Lynley to investigate a ruthless crime.
After the senseless murder of his wife, Detective Superintendent Thomas Lynley retreated to Cornwall, where he has spent six solitary weeks hiking the bleak and rugged coastline. But no matter how far he walks, no matter how exhausting his days, the painful memories of Helen's death do not diminish.
On the forty-third day of his walk, at the base of a cliff, Lynley discovers the body of a young man who appears to have fallen to his death. The closest town, better known for its tourists and its surfing than its intrigue, seems an unlikely place for murder. However, it soon becomes apparent that a clever killer is indeed at work, and this time Lynley is not a detective but a witness and possibly a suspect.
The head of the vastly understaffed local police department needs Lynley's help, though, especially when it comes to the mysterious, secretive woman whose cottage lies not far from where the body was discovered. But can Lynley let go of the past long enough to solve a most devious and carefully planned crime?
"At the start of bestseller George's stellar new suspense novel, the grieving Thomas Lynley, a Scotland Yard detective who left the force after the murder of his pregnant wife, Helen, in With No One as Witness (2005), is filling his days with a long trek in his native Cornwall.During his ramble, Lynley stumbles on the body of teenager Santo Kerne, who apparently fell from a cliff onto some rocks, though it soon becomes evident that someone tampered with Kerne's climbing gear.As the first on the scene, Lynley himself comes under suspicion, despite his lack of history with the victim, by the investigating officer, the capable but crusty Det. Insp. Bea Hannaford. Lynley fittingly plays a secondary role in the homicide inquiry as he continues to struggle to find a reason for living after his devastating loss.The plausible resolution of the crime leaves enough ambiguity to satisfy readers who prefer psychologically sophisticated plots and motivations. 10-city author tour. (May)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"This is the first of Elizabeth George's novels I've read, and I finished it doubly astonished: at George's exceptional gifts and at my own dimwittedness in neglecting her work for the 20 years she's been publishing. Other readers, more vigilant than I, have long since made her elegant, complex novels international best-sellers. Almost all of them feature the aristocratic Detective Superintendent Thomas... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) Lynley of Scotland Yard and his working-class partner, Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers. Lynley, an earl, and the smart but frumpy Havers are a latter-day Holmes and Watson; indeed, at one point in this novel Lynley calls out to her, 'The game's afoot,' Holmes' rallying cry to his immortal sidekick. In a previous novel, 'With No One as Witness,' a 12-year-old boy senselessly shot and killed Lynley's beloved wife, Helen, outside their home in London's posh Belgravia neighborhood. At the start of the new novel, in the aftermath of Helen's death, Lynley has been aimlessly walking the Cornish coast, not caring if he lives or dies. Then, as happens in fiction, fate intervenes. He discovers the body of a rock climber who has fallen to his death. Duty-bound, Lynley summons the local police and, when the boy's fall proves to have been no accident, is caught up in a murder investigation. Scotland Yard dispatches Havers, ostensibly to help the investigation, but in truth to try to persuade him to return to the job he has walked away from. Although 'Careless in Red' starts and ends with Lynley, he is not really its central figure. He advises the local police and is attracted to a woman who is a suspect in the case. Lynley is a fascinating character — intelligent, sensitive, gracious, but always isolated by his social status — and we wonder if he will succumb to romance and if he will return to Scotland Yard. But the novel's real focus is the village where the dead boy lived and the people there who variously loved and hated him. The village is called Casvelyn, and there can't be many corners of the world with more passion, anger, intrigue and jealousy. The dead youth, 18-year-old Santo Kerne, was sleeping with most of the women in town, from teenagers to ladies well into their 40s. As a result, the list of possible killers includes quite a number of ex-girlfriends as well as their boyfriends, husbands and fathers. In some regards, the dead boy's parents, Ben and Dellen Kerne, are the main characters. Ben is a decent sort who's in the midst of converting an old hotel into a resort for vacationers — England's best surfing, it seems, is on the Cornish coast. He and Dellen have had a tempestuous love affair since they were teenagers. She, like her son, sleeps with anyone she fancies, but Ben continues to love her, and they fight endlessly. In their marriage, 'I love you' can quickly be followed by 'I hate you,' and vice versa. We also get to know Detective Inspector Bea Hannaford, who leads the investigation and has her own problems with her ex-husband, also a cop, who wants to try again. She's dubious, although she's exceedingly weary of Internet dating and being a single mom. We meet various teenagers. A girl named Madlyn works in a bakery and at one point was impregnated by Santo. There's skinny, virginal Tammy, who lives with a grandfather who cannot for the life of him understand her: 'He observed her the way he always observed her, like a species of mammal he'd never come upon before.' The plot of 'Careless in Red' is perfectly adequate — we do wonder who did in this young Don Juan — but the real interest of the book, to the reader and probably to the author, lies in its characterizations. It isn't simply that George carries us deep into the lives of 10 or 12 main characters. What's more remarkable is how much she does even with walk-on characters, whom she lovingly brings to life. A retired policeman, seen once, has 'a nose misshapen by rhinophyma' and proves to be a devout Christian who grumbles that it was the Beatles who turned young people away from Jesus. A young woman, delivering a message, confides that she and her boyfriend are taking dancing lessons: 'Bit daft, that, but it's summick to do, innit.' The fact that George is an American, who has lived most of her life in California (and now in Washington state), has not, so far as I can see, stopped her from mastering the endless wonders of Britspeak. American crime fiction, starting with Dashiell Hammett and continuing through James M. Cain, Ed McBain, John D. MacDonald and current writers such as Robert Crais and Lee Child, has tended to be terse, fast-moving and action-oriented. George has made herself part of an English tradition that is more leisurely and more given to psychological probing. This tradition's other leading practitioners now include P.D. James and Ruth Rendell. The only serious objection I can see to this novel is that it's 626 pages long and some readers won't want to spend that much time deep inside the lives of these randy, befuddled and often tormented Cornish villagers. But readers who value writing that is intelligent, surprising, sexy, funny, compassionate and wise should find 'Careless in Red' a delight. Her fans know that, of course, and those who don't know George's work can certainly start here, with what is essentially a transitional novel, as Lynley starts a new life. It would be a pleasure, however, to go back to George's first Lynley novel, 'A Great Deliverance,' and work one's way forward." Reviewed by Patrick Anderson,whose e-mail address is mondaythrillers(at)aol.com, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"In keeping with George's standards, both the inspectors and their many suspects are complex, fascinating folks, and, also as usual, they all have dramatic, if a bit unbelievably dire, back stories. Highly recommended." Library Journal (Starred Review)
"Despite the obvious restoration device, George delivers, once again, a mystery imbued with psychological suspense and in-depth characterization." Booklist
"As you'd expect from George, a windy exploration of angst, grief and the feelings that pass for love. Much surfing and rock-climbing, but also many wretchedly oblique confrontations and overwrought similes. Even so, it's nice to have Lynley back." Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Elizabeth George is the New York Times bestselling author of fourteen novels of psychological suspense, one book of nonfiction, and two short-story collections. Her work has been honored with the Anthony and Agatha awards, the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière, and the MIMI, Germany's prestigious prize for suspense fiction. She lives in Washington State.
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