Saturday, May 10, 2014

Believing the Lie -- Elizabeth George

I was never a fan of Nancy Drew nor the Hardy Boys when I was a kid. I don't know why mysteries didn't appeal to me then, but it was an aversion to which I'd remain devoted for many, many years. It lasted until I was planning a weekend away in New Orleans, and I asked the owner of the bookstore--an avid fan of mysteries--to recommend something of that genre to me to read.

She handed me Elizabeth George's A Great Deliverance and I was hooked. I devoured every other book in her Thomas Lynley series as quickly as I could get my hands on one (except for What Came Before He Shot Her, a pass many of her other faithful readers took as well). When Believing the Lie came out I was in the early months of what would become a very long reading slump, but even when I began to emerge from that a few months ago it's heft (just over 600 pages) gave me pause. When you stop reading for whatever reasons there may be, you really do have to recondition your mind and your attention span, and I wanted to feel ready to take it on before taking it on. 

I was fixin' to head out on a vacation weekend with a bunch of my girlfriends when I finally picked this one up, but I had a bad feeling about it. My history with books and vacations is not good. Oddly enough, I never have been much of one for reading when I'm away from home, because I am distracted by the excitement of being anywhere but here.  I wondered whether taking a book from an author who commands attention be paid was a kiss of death, but turns out I did just enough reading during my days away to keep me in the story, and when I got home I zeroed in. I finished it this morning while my granddaughter watched Frozen for the thousandth time (and no, I'm not a bad grandmother... it's raining outside so we'd have been watching cartoons anyway).

The various books in this series have always been a bit uneven. I like the books best where Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers are front and center. I find Deborah St. James to be a pill most of the time, and have tended to be bored by her husband Simon, but they come in handy, I'll admit. All the skaters were on the ice this time, and each of them had a big role to play in one of George's most convoluted offerings yet. 

The setup is that Lynley's been asked to take an unofficial look into the suspicious drowning death of the well-placed Ian Cresswell. He enlists the help of the St. James', as neither of them are part of Scotland Yard and can do as they please with their time. Havers gets involved on the sly, per Lynley's request. From this spring so many subplots that I felt I was reading a fireworks display at times.... and yet each of them held my attention.  

Every character in Believing the Lie has something they are hiding from others and, most importantly, from themselves. It is true that there was way too much candy for a nickel in this story, but George kept me interested in every side story and character. My biggest complaint is that when the ends began to get tied up, they did so too quickly and neatly. I would not have minded a few Susan Hill like dangling threads, quite frankly, even though the book did end with an emerging mystery that I know to be taken up in the next one in the series.  And yes, I'll be reading that after I finish physical therapy to fix the sore muscles in my neck and back, put there by holding this book in my hands for so long. 

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