Review of “Believing the Lie” by Elizabeth George

This is the seventeenth book in the Inspector Thomas Lynley series. Jim and I listened to this book together on audio. The Inspector Lynley stories usually are centered around a crime which New Scotland Yard (and specifically D.I. Lynley) is called upon to help solve. In this case, however, there is no crime, but only mysteries. (One of which, according to my husband, was, “WHY ARE WE LISTENING TO THIS?”)


In this story, D.I. Lynley is called away from London to go to Cumbria and investigate the death of the nephew (Ian Cressell) of an influential wealthy man, Bernard Fairclough, who has the clout to bring in Scotland Yard for what was ruled an accident. So Lynley temporarily abandons his thrice-weekly trysting with the tiresome and obnoxious (to me, that is, and I believe also to everyone in both the fictitious and actual universe except for Lynley) Department Chief Isabelle Ardery. Heading up to Cumbria, he decides to take along his friends Simon and Deborah St. James for assistance. Yes, it was rational of Lynley to ask Simon, since he is a forensics expert. But it seems very out of character that Lynley would allow Deborah, a civilian as it were, to play-act in order to set up a possible “sting” on one of the suspects. But he does, and she does, and she mucks things up fatally, one might say.

Back in London, Lynley’s partner, Barbara Havers, does some legwork for Lynley, even as she tries to duck from the inappropriately punitive attention of Isabelle Ardery. Barbara is also adjusting to the return of Angelina into the lives of her neighbors, Taymullah Azar and his charming daughter Hadiyyah. Angelina is Hadiyyah’s mother, and Barbara wants to dislike her, but echoing the reactions of Azar and Hadiyyah, she has trouble resisting Angelina’s charms.

Meanwhile, up in Cumbria, all hell is breaking lose, and Fairclough family secrets veritably gush out of the woodwork like the tidal bore coursing through Morecambe Bay. [A tidal bore is a fast rising tide that can be quite dangerous. Tidal bores occur in just a few locations worldwide. They take place when incoming tides are funnelled into a shallow, narrowing river or lake via a broad bay. The funnel-like shape both increases both the height and duration of the flood tide creating a sudden increase in the water level. Youtube features a number of fascinating tourist videos of the Cumbrian tidal bores as well as of the quicksand that makes the area even more treacherous.] In fact, the characters in the book mention the deadly aspects of the Bay quite often, and with good reason.

A tidal bore wave arriving in Canada's Bay of Fundy

A tidal bore wave arriving in Canada’s Bay of Fundy

On this map you can see how the tide gets funneled to create a big bore, so to speak

On this map you can see how the tide gets funneled to create a big bore, so to speak, which in the case of this book, could be considered an apt synecdoche

Discussion: This six-hundred-plus page book features just about every crime except a murder: there is adultery, bribery, blackmail, a pornography ring, alcoholism, vengeance, and deception of every sort. But alas, these sins aren’t the only ones exposed by this book: there are also the ones we could ascribe to the author and/or editor: repetition, rambling, irrelevancy, endless angsty blathering by the characters, and yet, even after all that, a number of unresolved ends.

Then there are a gamut of “issues” rehearsed as well: depression, gender preference, limitations of body, limitations of mind, women who want to mother children but can’t, women who have mothered children but shouldn’t have, sex without passion, passion without sex, forgiving, forgetting, and how it is possible or impossible to do either.

There is also a side plot involving one Zedekiah Benjamin, and his story was so unnecessary, improbable, and offensive, I wondered why it was there at all, except perhaps to provide some unsavory and generally tactless comic relief by preying upon cultural stereotypes.

Jill’s Evaluation: In spite of my complaints, I do like hanging out with Lynley (well, unless he’s with Ardery), and Havers, and I don’t mind whiling away rush-hour traffic hearing about other peoples’ sordid lives. I wasn’t all that enamored of the narrator; she had a very large number of voices to do, and while she certainly did better than I ever could have done, most of the time I was wishing there were simply more actors reading the story, especially for the male voices.

Jill’s Rating: 3/5

Jim’s Evaluation: This is not a crime novel; it’s a soap opera. The “story” wanders about, taking many detours. It resolves some (but not all) of the issues raised, and seems more of a collection of barely related vignettes rather than a linear progression to a dénouement where all the loose ends come together. It has no real conclusion, merely a point where the author stops writing. (But no real complaint on that score!) Having not read any other books by Elizabeth George previously, I didn’t hear anything in this audiobook to make me regret that.

Jim’s Rating: 2/5

Final Score: 2.5/5

The audiobook was read by Davina Porter, and was unabridged, although we both thought it could have used some abridgement by an editor prior to publication.

Published by Penguin Audio, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. and Recorded Books, LLC., 2012


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11 Responses to Review of “Believing the Lie” by Elizabeth George

  1. Sandy says:

    Huh. Well I have listened to three or four of these books and I’ve loved them. But then again, they have always been wrapped around a murder or two, and have been fairly focused. I enjoy the characters too, and Lynley’s hot little sports car! (I know I’m shallow.) I HAVE this audio, but have yet to load it because I just haven’t heard enough good things to make it worth the effort. Which makes me sad.

  2. love the cover…but 600 pages…and a soap opera? moving along….

  3. Beth F says:

    Davina Porter can make anything good! I love her. I tried to read the George book that took place on Guernsey (did you know I lived there for a bit in the 80s?) but never made it past the first couple of chapters. I don’t remember what the problem was.

  4. Charlie says:

    I can’t say I’m interested in the book – your review, on the other hand, was a whole lot of fun 🙂 Liking the mystery your husband thought up, and your lists of what was included and what not were good.

  5. Patti Smith says:

    I haven’t read any of these but it sounds like I definitely don’t need to start with this installment. 600 pgs? Whoa.

  6. BermudaOnion says:

    The blathering and “soap opera” like feel of this one make me think it’s not for me.

  7. zibilee says:

    I think I might agree with Jim on this one. It sounds a little melodramatic, and even though I like that kind of thing in other genres, I’m not so crazy about it thrillers. I do love that you guys wrote point and counterpoint though. It was a fun review to read!

  8. bookingmama says:

    I’ve heard good things about this series, but I think I’ll start with a different one.

  9. I’ve never read any of her books so for now I’m going to keep it that way only because I feel like I’m coming in way too late at this point.

  10. Leslie says:

    This was my first attempt at an Elizabeth George novel. I listened to the audio last summer and I agree with your assessment. My experience sent me running from trying any of the previous books although I have been assured by a few of her fans that earlier books would have been a better choice to begin the series with.

  11. stacybuckeye says:

    I’ve never tried Elizabeth George and I love that Jim was willing to listen to the whole thing 🙂

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