I LOVE Elizabeth George, and have been reading the Inspector Lynley novels (or, as I prefer to call them, the Lynley-Havers novels) since the mid-1990s when introduced to them by a fellow librarian when we were stuck in an airport. So I was extremely pleased to receive an advance of A Banquet of Consequences (#19 in the series) from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
Right from the start, this one was different for me: I had no idea what the story involved, who died, where and how the crime would be investigated, and by whom. 2013’s Just One Evil Act (#18 in the series) ended with Barbara Havers being seriously on the outs with the bosses at New Scotland Yard – especially Superintendent Isabelle Ardery – after Barbara violated a boatload of rules and ignored instructions as she went to Italy to deal with a crisis involving her neighbors, Taymullah Azhar and his daughter Haddiyah, both of whom had clearly broken through Barbara’s tough outer shell constructed to protect herself from the hurt inherent in becoming emotionally close to people. At the end of that novel, the Azhars had fled to Pakistan, and I admit I was hoping for an update on this whole complex relationship… but, back to the Banquet!
I began reading without the benefit of even a dust jacket summary and was immediately caught up in the lives of a famous feminist author, her editor, and her assistant, one of whose sons is a young man with a Tourette’s-style affliction and the other is a therapist struggling with his own marital relationship issues – which almost pale in comparison to the mother’s ugly marital situation…wow, this woman can be a complete shrew!
So, early on, the Tourette-ish son flings himself over a cliff – but that isn’t the murder, as it turns out. It took a while for the stories to unfold, and we began to be involved with a variety of relationships…and we just KNOW that the complex interrelationships of the author, her editor, her assistant, and that woman’s extended family are all going to come together is some way!
There are various subplots swirling around the investigation into the actual murder (plus a subsequent attempted murder), the investigations of which involve both Lynley and Havers, in London and in Dorset. Familiar characters appear, including Winston Nkata, Isabelle Ardery (Lynley’s former lover and current boss to both him and Detective Sergeant Havers), Daidre the veterinarian who seemed to be a likely candidate to bring Lynley out of his ongoing mourning following his wife’s murder a couple of books ago…like getting an update on old friends.
George does a terrific job moving the relationships and complex plot (and subplots) along, with a resolution that was a bit of a surprise (admittedly, I am terrible at solving mysteries, despite how many I read). It was a wonderful rebound following the past two Lynley-focused books, which seemed almost stale, as if she might be growing tired of her own characters’ stories. (Book #18 focused on Havers and took place largely out of the UK, and seemed almost as if it were part of another series. Frankly, it was a nice change after two less than astonishingly written Lynley-Havers books, and it seems unfair to compare it to books in the Lynley-Havers series).
As always, George’s use of language is a delight:
- Describing people: “…a young individual of rather ovine appearance suggestive of too much inbreeding among people with excessively curly hair and faces of a triangular shape in which the apex was upended to form a chin.”
- Describing places: “…the tables were of a vintage and an unmatched variety…and the chairs looked like a furniture version of the United Nations.”
And, whether from her own large vocabulary or my own limited vocabulary, I always enjoy the way she keeps me reaching for my dictionary (bold type mine):
- “…grasses coruscated like diamonds as the dew that bent them was hit by the daylight.”
- “…heavy mist creating a tenebrous shroud.”
- “…breathing whose stertorous nature suggested a life of heave smoking or asthma or both.”
After a couple of disappointments, this more than met my expectations, and I am thrilled that Elizabeth George is back among my favorite authors!