Friday, May 13, 2016

A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George: A review

A Great Deliverance (Inspector Lynley #1)A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth  George
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As an avid reader of mystery series, why have I never picked up one of Elizabeth George's Inspector Lynley books? After all, she's one of the most successful mystery writers now on the scene. I've finally remedied my oversight by reading the first book in the series and the writer's first novel, A Great Deliverance. I won't wait so long to peruse the second book in the series, because this was a terrific read.

Here are a few of the things that I liked about the book:

The setting. Yorkshire, with its gray, windy moors and small, insular villages is a dark and mysterious place all on its own. Here, George takes us to the little village of Keldale where a local respected farmer has been found decapitated in his barn, his dead body slumped over the also dead body of his old dog whose throat had been slit. Most shockingly, his daughter is seated on an upturned bucket nearby with an axe on her lap. She says, "I did it. And I'm not sorry." Okay, end of mystery, right? No! It is only the beginning.

The development of character. The two main characters are Inspector Thomas Lynley, who is also a member of the aristocracy as the eighth earl of Asherton, and Sergeant Barbara Havers, who is definitely blue collar and it's not just the color of her uniform. She was raised and still lives in poverty with her parents.

I was fascinated with the way that George chose to reveal these characters to us. She essentially shows us both through the eyes of Sgt. Havers who is an embittered and unhappy woman. Havers has just been demoted from detective back to a uniform policewoman because she is so irascible and ill-tempered that she is unable to work with any of the inspectors. Then the head of a Scotland Yard unit gives her a second chance. He picks her to work with Inspector Lynley on the decapitation case. Havers is both elated and appalled. Appalled because it's Lynley. She hates Lynley! She sees him as an upper class twit, a fop, and, moreover, a relentless womanizer who seduces every attractive woman he meets. Which means that Havers is perfectly safe because her image of her own body (like that of so many women who have been taught to be self-loathers) is that she is ugly, pig-like even, a perennial loser. Donald Trump would have a field day mocking her.

The problem with Havers' perception of Lynley's personality is that it is her own projection. His reputation as being a carefree sex machine is more than a little overblown. As we eventually learn, he has actually been celibate for the past year since breaking off his engagement with the woman he loved. The woman he still loves. The woman who has just married one of Lynley's best friends, a man about whom he feels enormous guilt because his friend was crippled as a result of an auto accident when Lynley was driving. In fact, we learn through Lynley's actions that he is actually a caring and sensitive man and a detective who is passionate about his job. But will Havers ever be able to see that?

Plot surprises. George plays fair. She sprinkles her clues throughout and the eagle-eyed reader may certainly suspect what is at the bottom of the secrets and mysteries that are buried in the village of Keldale. Still the denouement is pretty devastating as all the secrets are finally revealed.

Language. The writer is able to weave in literary and historical elements into her story. Her use of Shakespearean allusions seemed particularly apt. But I was especially pleased with some of the $25 words used by George, words that I was unfamiliar with and had to ask my Kindle to define. Such a joy to learn new-to-me words, although most often the words themselves were quite old.

Relationships. I found the development of the prickly relationship between Lynley and Havers fascinating to watch. These are two very damaged people. One can hope that the strengths of one will offset the weaknesses of the other. That's what their boss at Scotland Yard saw and what he is hoping for.

There are other important relationships that play a role in the plot. For example, the ones between that dead farmer and his two daughters and the wife who left long ago, as well as his relationships in the community. Other tangential relationships are sketched by George with a minimum of words that are nevertheless cogent and well-chosen and give the reader a clear picture of the situation.

By the way, was that impish nine-year-old girl with her pet duck an homage to Martha Grimes? I choose to think so!

All in all, I found this to be a remarkable first novel by a talented writer, and I look forward to reading more about Lynley and Havers.


View all my reviews

10 comments:

  1. Excellent review Dorothy! The opener had me, as I am sure it did you when you started the book. And you had to get the Donald in there, didn't you? I had to laugh. I have never read Elizabeth George either. I think I had a wrong impression of her which you have now corrected. Thanks.

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    1. Of course, I don't know how representative this first book is of her writing, but it is definitely a winner.

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  2. I wanted to start with George's first book and I am glad I did. I can see how the characters will continue their relationships in the next books. The author's writing is easy to follow with the full nuances of England and Scotland Yard. Excellent writing that makes me want to continue through the entire series. I HIGHLY recommend it. Peter Robinson fans-go for it!!

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    1. It's nice to see that you enjoyed the book, also. I'm not familiar with Peter Robinson, but I will definitely be checking him out.

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  3. I love Elizabeth George! I've read all her books, and I will say some of the most recent ones have been a little disappointing in the way the characters developed, though her latest one was so much better. Barbara Havers is one of my favorite characters. It's been so long since I read this one--I should read it again to remember how these characters began. Funny you should mention Martha Grimes and the child present in all of the Jury mysteries. I miss her--wonder if she will write another book?

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    1. In a long series, one can always expect some hits and some misses, but George certainly started off on a high note. I still have three more of Grimes' Jury novels to read, so I hope she writes more.

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  4. I liked the way you set up your review, Dorothy; it was very helpful. I'm glad you have found yet another series.

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    1. Yes, I am really looking forward to reading more of this!

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  5. A friend recommended this series. I knew a bit about the leads from the old PBS series. It helps a lot to have this back story. Well drawn characters and enjoyable plotlines. Look forward to the rest of the series.

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    1. I remember hearing about the PBS series, but for some reason, I never watched it. That's a bit strange since I watch nearly all the PBS mysteries. Maybe I should look it up. This book was certainly a promising start to the series.

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