Monday, January 9, 2012

Review: Believing the Lie by Elizabeth George

Author: Elizabeth George
Publisher-Format: Penguin Group USA, Dutton Adult, e-galley 615 pages
Year of publication: 2012
Subject: betrayal, family dysfunction, keeping secrets, infertility
Setting: The Lake District, Cumbria, UK
Series: Lyndley/Havers Mysteries
Genre: Mystery - police procedural
Source: e-galley from publisher through Net Galley

It's been a while since Elizabeth George has given us a new episode in the ongoing adventures of Scotland Yard's Chief Inspector Thomas Lyndley and his trusty side-kick Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers.  Believing the Lie was worth every minute of the wait.  It's meaty, some might argue a tad long, but the subtle layers of personal motivation, interwoven stories of various characters, and a crime that defies definition -- (was there a crime?) keep the reader up late at night, turning pages, vowing to read just one more chapter.

There are several story lines going here, all of them inter-related but each also a stand-alone.  Havers is dealing with ambivalent feelings about her (and Lyndley's) new "guv" -the impeccably groomed Isabelle Ardery whose insistence on Barbara getting a haircut and spiffing up her wardrobe does not sit well with the Sergeant.  Barbara's also dealing with the sudden (and somewhat unwelcome) appearance of the mother of her next door neighbor's daughter.

 Debra and Simon are engaged in emotional upheaval revolving around their (in)ability to conceive a child.  Lyndley himself is still reeling from the death of his wife Helen three books ago, and is conflicted about his relationship with Isabelle, engaging in a highly charged sexual affair by night, and keeping an even professional keel in the office.

Scotland Yard Commissioner Lord Hillyer sends Lyndley on an undercover, hush-hush mission to Cumbria to see if the death of his friend Lord Fairclough's nephew was truly accidental as it had been so ruled by the coroner.  Because Hillyer doesn't want anyone at the Yard aware of the investigation, Tommy takes his friends Simon and Debra St. James with him, swearing them to secrecy.  He tells Havers only that he will be gone for a few days, and simply tells Isabelle (his boss) that he's on assignment.  All too soon, Sgt Havers gets drawn in to research items for him using the Yard's resources, and Isabelle's nose gets way out of joint.

The Fairclough family is a soap opera in print.  There's marital infidelity, an out of the closet gay couple, neglected children, a nymphomaniac mother, an out-of-control teenager, a recovering drug addict and his secretive wife, a matriarch who wants to control all, a disgruntled tenant farmer, a sour, spoiled-brat spinster daughter, and a divorced couple still living together.  The author manages to keep each of these story lines moving right along without confusion on the reader's part, and in the end ties everything together.  Often authors trying to keep this many balls in the air try to wrap everything up in a neat package with a pretty bow, leaving their readers breathless, confused and frequently disappointed.  George takes her time, drawing out the stories and letting them come to natural  conclusions, even when the reader would have wished for a better or different ending.

George has built on characters introduced earlier in the series, but gives enough back story to provide new readers with a clear sense of who and why.  She has also given us a lot to look forward to in future installments.  Many potential readers are familiar with Lyndley and Havers from the PBS Masterpiece Theatre adaptation of the earlier books, and although those are well done, there is no way the TV specials can include the depth, diversity and delicate nuances of the books.

If you enjoyed the TV show, you'll love the books.  If you're a fan of the series, you will love this one, and if you're new to Tommy and Barbara, grab this one (or one of the earlier ones)---you're in for a treat!

Many thanks to Penguin for making the e-galley available for review.  Publication is scheduled for January 17th.


  1. Love the TV show, love the books and haven't got to this one yet.

  2. I know this is surprising but I just discovered Lynley and Havers via Netflix. We watched the episode I ordered a couple nights ago and I'm hooked. Now I really want to read the books. The family in this one sounds like a soap opera script.

  3. I'm a few behind in this series but your excellent review makes me want to run out and get this immediately. Somehow I can't imagine Havers "spiffed up." She wouldn't be Havers then. Glad you enjoyed it.

  4. yes..tad long.
    I have watched the TV show but this was the first of the book I read and to tell ya the truth, I did not love it.


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