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George, Elizabeth - 'Careless in Red'
Paperback: 576 pages (Feb. 2009) Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks ISBN: 0340978368

I was pleased to be able to read another "Inspector Lynley" book, but generally disappointed with the result.

Regular readers of this series of novels will know that Lynley's wife was tragically shot and killed by a twelve-year old child in revenge for a case Lynley was investigating. Lynley was completely numbed with shock and heartbroken, and as a result suddenly resigned from the police and returned to his ancestral home in Cornwall to grieve. Needing solitude to help this process he decided to walk the coastline of Cornwall and spent the next weeks doing so, sleeping rough. On his 42nd day, he discovers the dead body of a boy on a beach. He alerts the authorities and that starts the story.

As Lynley looks very rough, not having bathed the entire six weeks, the police are very loath to believe he is a former high ranking Scotland Yard detective and he is immediately considered a suspect for the killing. Scotland Yard is notified that a man calling himself 'Thomas Lynley' is claiming to be a former acting Detective Superintendent, can they confirm his identity? They do and his former assistant, Sergeant Barbara Havers is sent to lend a hand to the hard pressed Detective Inspector Bea Handiford, and does so in her usual inimitable way.

The author introduces some other sub plots, using characters entirely unconnected with Lynley, which I found completely unnecessary. The book could have been much reduced in length and stronger in composition without these superfluous details. Scotland Yard are very pleased that Lynley has resurfaced and want him to return to his duties and Havers tries to encourage him accordingly. This is a welcome sub-plot amongst a lot of dross.

This American author writes stories about the British way of life for a mainly American readership. The vocabulary she uses can be very confusing for her British readers as she uses phrases that may appear perfectly authentic to US readers but sound phoney over here. She introduces words like "blokes" into conversations which may sound correct to a US reader but in fact jar with the style of the story, which is delivered as if the police characters were operating in New York and not Cornwall eg Lynley asks the local Cornish police to arrange an 'age progression' on a suspect's photo...

The author has written some very good stories with the usual characters of Inspector Lynley and Sergeant Barbara Havers but she seems to have got bored with her success and in this story and the last, both characters appear peripheral to the main stories. I wish she would return to her strengths and use her main characters more as this story, like the curate's egg, is only good in parts. I hope she returns to her former form or she will lose a lot of readers.

Read another review of CARELESS IN RED.

Terry, Halligan, England
February 2009

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 20/02/2009 20:54