Literary Corner Cafe

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Book Review - Mysteries - Believing the Lie by Elizabeth George

Believing the Lie is Elizabeth George’s seventeenth “Inspector Lynley” novel, and in this book, Tommy Lynley is back to form and back on the job fulltime.

When Ian Cresswell, nephew of the very wealthy industrialist, Bernard Fairclough dies in Cumbria’s Lake Windermere, the victim of an apparent accidental drowning, Fairclough takes advantage of his friendship with New Scotland Yard’s Assistant Commissioner Sir David Hillier in order to have the death looked into unofficially. Fairclough wants to make sure no one in his family had anything to do with Ian’s demise and that there’s nothing more sinister than a boating accident is going on.

Hillier, of course, can think of no better detective to send to the Lake District than Tommy Lynley. And, since Lynley feels he’ll need a little help in dealing with Fairclough’s considerable family, forensic expert, Simon St. James and his photographer wife, Deborah, both depressed over Deborah’s inability to carry a child to term and at odds over adoption, go along for the ride. Along with Lynley, Simon and Deborah will help the Scotland Yard DCI determine if anyone in the Fairclough family had the motive, means, and opportunity to murder Ian Cresswell, for if it was murder, it had to be someone in the family who committed it.

And what a family Bernard Fairclough has. His wife of forty-three years, Valerie, seems “normal” enough, though Lynley will learn that like her husband, Valerie has her own unique foibles. Of their three children, son, Nicholas, and twin daughters, Mignon and Manette, only Manette seems fairly well adjusted. Nicholas, who seems fine at present, is a reformed drug addict and “wild child,” now happily married to Alatea, a gorgeous Argentine woman who has plenty of secrets of her own. And Mignon, well, maybe the less said about Mignon, the better.

The deceased, Ian Cresswell, left behind a very bitter ex-wife, Niamh, who is doing her best to rid herself of Ian’s two children, the very troubled Tim and the very scared Gracie, even though these are her own children as well, and really, quite lovable. And lest I forget, there’s Kaveh Mehran, the handsome, young, Iranian man who persuaded Ian to leave his family and introduce Kaveh to them as his lover on Tim’s fourteenth birthday. All of these people profited, or could profit, from Ian Cresswell’s death, but did any of them actually murder him?

Meanwhile, both Lynley’s boss, Isabelle Ardery, with whom he’s carrying on a grief-inspired torrid affair (begun in the previous book This Body of Death), and Lynley’s former partner, DS Barbara Havers are busy back in London. Isabelle’s upset because she can’t get Lynley to tell her where he is or what he’s doing, and Barbara is deeply involved with her neighbor, Taymullah Azhar, his lady love, Angelina Upman, and their daughter, Hadiyyah. But why, for goodness sake, will Azhar never allow his older children to meet the intelligent and adorable Hadiyyah? I think we’re going to learn more about Azhar and family in future books, and I hope we do. At any rate, eventually even Barbara is pressed into service by Lynley.

Complicating matters is tabloid reporter, Zed Benjamin. He’s sniffing around the Fairclough clan as a “last resort.” He either brings his boss a big story or he loses his job. Meanwhile, Zed’s mother, who is really more caricature than character, is trying to marry her son off to a “nice Jewish girl” named Yaffa Shaw, but Yaffa insists she’s engaged to Micah, a long suffering medical student in Tel Aviv.

Believing the Lie is one of Elizabeth George’s longest books (my hardcover copy is 608 pages), and it’s also one of the most intricate and complex. There are multiple plot strands that radiate from a central occurrence, in this case, the drowning of Ian Cresswell, before all converging near the book’s end. The characters are, for the most part, well developed. And, like most of George’s books, the problems involved revolve around relevant social issues. Personally, I loved the book’s complexity and it’s length. I love finding a big, hefty book that’s going to allow me to bury myself in the story for days to come, which I did. While there were two storylines I didn’t particularly like – the one involving Zed Benjamin, and to a lesser extent, the one involving Tim Cresswell, I have to say that there’s no “fat” in this book, nothing truly extraneous. (Okay, the one involving Tim could have been cut, but it was nicely woven in, and I really liked Tim.) I’ve never been terribly interested in “relevant social issues,” but a person has to take some interest in order to get along in the world and pay his dues. This book seems to revolve around the broad theme of parents and children and the relationship of one to the other, and I don’t think anyone can deny that that’s an important subject.

Bernard Fairclough is interested in getting along with his grown son, Nicholas, and his twin daughters – also grown – play important roles in the novel. There’s the relationship Ian Cresswell had with his aunt and uncle, and the relationship he had with his own young children, Tim and Gracie. There’s Kaveh Mehran’s relationship with Ian’s children, which is far better than their mother Niamh’s relationship with them. And two couples, Alatea and Nicholas Fairclough and Deborah and Simon St. James, are despondent over not being pregnant and are considering surrogacy. Down in London, Barbara Havers is concerned with the only child in her life – Azhar’s daughter, Haddiyah, while Isabelle Ardery receives a surprise visit from her two sons.

I’d never been a fan of Deborah St. James until this book, when I really began to like her and warm toward her. That was odd, I thought, because Deborah wasn’t at her best or nicest in this book. Maybe that’s what drew me to her. Maybe I saw her more as a “real” human being with her vulnerabilities and flaws exposed. She was, however, at her most introspective and that almost always endears me to a character. Still grieving over the loss of Helen, Lynley, too, is vulnerable and flawed in this book, though he remains very good at doing the job he does. Both characters, at least, understand their weakness, making them more attractive to readers than if they did not.

Lynley and Company expose a wealth of Fairclough family secrets and lies, including one really big twist near the book’s end, and the twists and turns in this book can rival those on an Alpine road, you can be sure of that. Some readers didn’t like the fact that this book seems to be short on actual crime and long on melodrama. That didn’t bother me. Lynley, Havers, and the St. Jameses were front and center in this book, and I really loved that. I applaud George for trying something a little different once in a while. There’s not a thing wrong with this book. Unlike the foolish Fairclough clan, this book makes no missteps.

George is particularly skillful at integrating setting into her story, and this book is no exception. In Believing the Lie, George takes us to Cumbria’s beautiful Lake District. By the time I finished the book, I was ready to pack my bags. I felt the same way after reading the “Inspector Lynley” books set in Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Scotland, Cornwall, the New Forest, etc.

I loved reading this book. I found it extremely well written and complex. And, it’s not quite as dark as some of the previous “Inspector Lynley” books. Personally, I love the darkness in George’s books, but things can’t be all dark all the time.

There’s a lot of story here. I don’t doubt that it’s going to be “too much” story for a lot of readers. In my opinion, though, it’s quite worthy. Although some of Elizabeth George’s fans say the books are “suffering” lately, they still climb to the top of the bestseller list, and I expect all future books to do so as well. Even those readers who were dismayed at Helen’s death, who dislike Tommy’s affair, who want to see more (or less) of Simon and Deborah, etc. will pre-order the books, as I do, and read them the day they are published. Such is George’s hold on her readers. I hope it never changes, and I hope the “Inspector Lynley” series goes on for at least twenty more years.


Recommended: Elizabeth George fans won’t want to miss this one even though some of them will say it’s not her best. For those who are new to the “Inspector Lynley” series, I recommend starting at the beginning and working your way through to this book. Hopefully, by the time you do, a new “Inspector Lynley” book will have been published.

Note: Elizabeth George did not kill Lady Helen because of pressure from her publishers or because she wanted to introduce new characters. She planned on it for quite some time, for reasons I’m not quite sure of. George said she knew for a long time before Helen was killed that she was going to die. She simply had to find the proper time and place and means for it to happen. I liked Lady Helen, though I think I prefer Tommy Lynley unmarried, and I applaud George for having the courage to shake up the status quo of her books with a decision that wasn’t too popular with many of her readers.

From first to most current, the “Inspector Lynley” books are:

A Great Deliverance
Payment In Blood
Well-Schooled In Murder
A Suitable Vengeance
For the Sake of Elena
Missing Joseph
Playing for the Ashes
In the Presence of the Enemy
Deception on His Mind (Lynley on honeymoon)
In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner
A Traitor to Memory
A Place of Hiding
With No One As Witness
What Came Before He Shot Her
Careless In Red
This Body of Death
Believing the Lie


Anonymous said...

I disliked the Inspector Lynley TV series because I felt that Lynley, Lady Helen, and Barbara Havers were totally miscast. I felt that the actress who played Helen would have fit the role of Barbara Havers, and conversely, the actress who played Barbara was better suited to Helen. I wondered if Elizabeth George thought so too, and eliminated Helen for that reason. Just a thought.

Literary Corner Cafe said...

Elizabeth George has said she planned on "killing off Helen" from the very beginning of the series, as soon as she created her. I have to say, it does shake up the character dynamics quite a bit. I liked Helen, but I give George tremendous credit for having the courage to kill off a major, well loved character.

Anonymous said...

This. Is an overlong novel, which would have been much more readable had it been 1/3 the length. Interesting plots and characters, but, oh, the tedium of wading through pages upon pages of repetitive description, etc. Did E. George really write this? I'd have expected more of her.


Colette St-Denis said...

I love Elizabeth George's books, I have read most of her Linley novels. However this "Believing the lie", doesn't make the grade. There's no real plot, just a lot of gossipy stuff. In the end it just makes you want to say "Enough already!" I think her editor just wanted the cash that the mere name of Elizabeth George brings in.
* one star