Review of “Just One Evil Act” by Elizabeth George

This 18th book in the British Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley series focuses on Lynley’s partner, Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers. Barbara is close to her neighbors, Taymullah Azhar and his daughter, nine-year-old Hadiyyah. When Hadiyyah’s mother Angelina takes Hadiyyah and disappears, Barbara puts her career on the line to help Azhar. Azhar never married Angelina, so he doesn’t have any legal rights in the matter. Barbara determines that they must go outside the bounds of the law to find Hadiyyah and get her back.

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The trail quickly leads to Italy, and readers are introduced to a whole new set of interesting characters there, including the endearingly soft-hearted but wily Chief Inspector Salvatore Lo Bianco.

There is also, as in George’s previous book, considerable space devoted to the theme of the blight of tabloids, and their appeal “to the worst inclinations in human nature.”

Meanwhile, Lynley is endeavoring not to know what Barbara is doing, not to care, and not to report her, all at once. And in his private life, he is still trying to get over his late wife, with the help of a woman, Daidre, who has her own past to overcome.

Discussion: As you may know, the BBC has run a popular series of programs called The Inspector Lynley Mysteries (also carried by PBS). Throughout this very long book (over 700 pages), I kept thinking it could go for a whole season on the BBC! This is not to say I didn’t like it. Although these books are not for those who like edge-of-their-seat page turners, they have a certain British charm and a lot of atmosphere-building, you might say. But it was a major commitment of time to read, and it could well have been broken up into several books! (And yes, this truly sounds hypocritical from one who complains that trilogies, for example, don’t end their stories and thus virtually require you to purchase additional books and keep reading.)

There are a number of things I liked about this book. The descriptions of Italy are breathtaking. The Italian characters are quite engaging. As for Thomas and Barbara though, I had both positive and negative reactions. The inner mind of Thomas is kept rather opaque, as usual, although we do get a rare glimpse of what he is thinking when he thinks about what Barbara is up to and what it means to both of them. As for Barbara’s behavior, it didn’t always seem like Barbara to me. But I did buy into it enough to feel anguish for her, especially when she owned up, at the end, to the source of her sorrow. I was hoping something would come of her growing association with another character, but we will have to wait for the next book to see. (However, in spite of wanting more in that regard, I was quite happy to have the book end after 719 pages.)

Evaluation: For fans of very British mysteries and fans of Lynley and Havers, this book adds a nice twist with the Italian setting. It could also be read as a standalone, although one would get much more out of it by tackling the entire series. (And now, I’m off to look at travel brochures for Tuscany….)

Much of the action is set in Lucca, in Tuscany

Much of the action is set in Lucca, in Tuscany

Rating: 3/5

Published by Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA), 2013

Series Listing from the first to most current “Inspector Lynley” books as of 2013:

A Great Deliverance (1988)
Payment In Blood (1989)
Well-Schooled In Murder (1990)
A Suitable Vengeance (1991)
For the Sake of Elena (1992)
Missing Joseph (1992)
Playing for the Ashes (1993)
In the Presence of the Enemy (1996)
Deception on His Mind (1997)
In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner (1999)
A Traitor to Memory (2001)
A Place of Hiding (2003)
With No One As Witness (2005)
What Came Before He Shot Her (2006)
Careless In Red (2008)
This Body of Death (2010)
Believing the Lie (2012)
Just One Evil Act (2013)

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9 Responses to Review of “Just One Evil Act” by Elizabeth George

  1. sandynawrot says:

    I’ve read several from this series and really liked them a lot! But that list is daunting, and I really wish she would edit herself. No matter how much I love a series, 700 pages is too much to ask.

  2. colemining says:

    Had no idea this was out! I now have my book for my vacation long weekend next week- 700 pages just might see me through the whole 4 days. Thanks for the heads up and the review!

  3. Can you believe I’ve never read this series? I wonder if my mom has – she loves British mysteries.

  4. Beth F says:

    I tried to read the one that takes place in Guernsey but gave up. I don’t know why it didn’t click with me.

  5. I read many of Elizabeth George’s books a few years ago and the last year I began watching the Inspector Lynley TV shows. I enjoy both for diiferent reasons.
    Where I’m confused right now is one of the books and TV shows made it look as if Barbara and Taymullah Azhar were going to have a relationship. It wouldn’t surprise me if they didn’t since that’s typical Barbara. But I also thought Hadiyyah’s mother was dead. I guess I need to go back and refresh my memory.
    One thing that always annoys me is how condescending Tommy can be to Barbara. He often treats her like she’s beneath him because she’s female and, therefore, only capable of so much even in police work. Is that still going on?

    Sorry for such a long comment. Your post reminded me of how much I enjoyed Elizabeth George’s books and her writing style.. I might pick one up…although they’re getting longer and longer! Great post!

    • I apologize for the BigSexyBob part of my name…it’s from my cat and his blog Feline Family. I’m not really sure how it became a part of my name!

    • I don’t think that Tommy is condescending to Barbara because she is female. On the contrary, I think he is rather respectful of females, but only if they evince a certain comportment and comfort with their gender and surroundings. I think his attitude towards Barbara has more to do with class difference than with gender difference. I do think he respects her police work, and the tension between those two ways of looking at Barbara definitely come to the fore in this latest book.

  6. Jeanne says:

    I loved this one from the series, particularly. I liked them all up until the one told from the point of the shooter, What Came Before He Shot Her.

  7. stacybuckeye says:

    If you need a travel companion for Tuscany, give me a call!

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