Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What we're reading: Elizabeth George

Despite the fact that Just One Evil Act is part of Elizabeth George's Inspector Thomas Lynley mystery series (#18, to be exact), Lynley is decidedly a secondary character in this novel. He appears in small vignettes, which showcase his efforts to get his sergeant, Barbara Havers, out of the doghouse (and she has dug herself in deeper than usual), interspersed with brief interactions with veterinarian Daidre Trahair, whom we met a few books back in the series (Lynley broke into her cottage in Cornwall in Careless in Red) and who is apparently going to be the new love interest. Although there is a segment in the middle of the book in which Lynley plays an active role in an investigation, the decided focus of the book is Havers.

Taymullah Azhar, her neighbor and good friend, is distraught. His ex, Angelina, reunited with him and with their daughter, Haddiyah, in the last book, and after ingratiating herself with both of them (as well as with Barbara), Angelina has decamped, taking Haddiyah with her and leaving no word or sign of where they have gone. Since she is with her mother, nothing formal can be done (in the way of a missing person's report), particularly because Azhar's name does not appear on Haddiyah's birth certificate as a legal parent.

After Azhar has exhausted every avenue looking for them, Angelina reappears in London with her new man (an Italian landowner) in tow, but without Haddiyah, to accuse Azhar of kidnapping Haddiyah back from her (in Italy)--only he didn't. So where is Haddiyah? Barbara tries to help, against the wishes and orders of her "guv," the redoubtable Isabelle Ardery, and gets caught up in the drama, encountering Azhar's wife and son, whom he left for Angelina and who are understandably bitter; Angelina's sister and parents, all of whom hate Azhar; and the shady private detective he initially hired to find Haddiyah when Angelina left with her. No matter what else one can say about her, Barbara Havers is a loyal friend, and so naturally things go from bad to worse as she gets herself into more trouble, going out on a limb by collaborating with Mitchell Corsico (the opportunistic tabloid journalist). Then the story moves from London to Lucca, Italy and takes an unexpected turn.

I really enjoyed this one (which was good, because after the last two in the series, my interest was waning a bit). I was tearing my hair out over the sheer bulldog intractability of Havers while simultaneously rooting for her, and I liked the moral dilemma at the heart of the story. The travel to Italy and the involvement of another police force gave added interest, and the Italian detective, Salvatore lo Bianco, was so well drawn and sympathetic a character that I hope he makes another appearance someday in the Inspector Lynley saga (or in a book of his own!). Good one!

Note: The library also has the audio book version.

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