Review: A Great Deliverance

NaBloPoMo, Day 11

Elizabeth George (1988)

Overall, I enjoyed this mystery, the first by Elizabeth George to kick off her successful Inspector Lynley series. A friend who’s a fellow fan of Brit-TV was surprised when I told her I’d never seen the TV series based on the books. Curious, I picked up this book in the library and found it an entertaining escape.

In the classic mismatched police partners scenario, Lynley (aristocratic, cultured, handsome and confident) is teamed with Det. Sgt. Barbara Havers (working class, self-conscious, and headstrong.) Lynley and Havers are sent to a small village to solve a gruesome axe murder that, of course, isn’t as open-and-shut as it first appears. Eccentric characters, a fair amount of finger pointing and a haunted castle ruin provide plenty of color and entertainment. Character development, often sacrificed in murder mysteries, is given equal weight to the mystery at hand, at least for the primary players. Secondary characters are a mish-mash of walk-ons, appearing as needed to further the plot.

Central to the book is the relationship between Lynley and Havers. Havers’ sour, belligerent attitude has burned bridges throughout the department; working with Lynley is her last chance to avoid a permanent detail as a beat cop. She harbors a lot of deep-seated resentment against her new partner, with his breeding, background and romantic reputation grating on her at every turn. The antagonistic relationship worked as an interesting character yin and yang, up to a point. Eventually, I felt like I was reading a soap opera rather than a pair of professionals settling into their working relationship. (Some of Havers’ dialog comes off as the hysterical rants of a jealous girlfriend.) I let it go, but found it unbelievably contrived. I’m hoping their relationship settles down in future installments.

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