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. These occur 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.
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