Friday, March 7, 2014

Just One Evil Act by Elizabeth George

As I listened to the incomparable Davina Porter read this eighteenth novel in the Lynley/Havers series, I thought that writing this gigantic mystery seemed less like hard work and more like fun for George. She is so experienced, and so familiar with her characters by this time that she appears to riff off them with ease. She has them travel to Italy when Barbara discovers her favorite neighbors are in serious trouble.

George creates a glorious new character, Salvatore lo Bianco, presumably just for this book. (Sad; I’d love to see him again.) Ispettore lo Bianco is a police inspector. We meet Salvatore’s former wife, his mother, his children, his boss and colleagues--rounded characters all. George shows off her skill with this move to Italy and handling the introductions, as well as presenting a particularly intricate mystery featuring an abduction and a murder, placing Barbara’s neighbor, the Pakistani Muslim microbiologist Azhar in the frame. The story has so many angles and curves we are left gasping. But George sails through ably, with Davina Porter’s narration smooth perfection. Imagine the great time George had doing research for this one…

Elizabeth George once again earns her superstar status among mystery writers. It is a real achievement to pull off this enormous cast of characters (including Lynley’s new love interest, Daidre Trahair), a mystery that looks completely damning for a member of a racial minority, and the byzantine conundrum of Italian justice. George keeps piling obstacles in Barbara's path but Barbara plows through in her indomitable way, struggling to save a friend whom she believed in through every turn of the screw. Who would not want to have such a person on one’s side?

George handles the pacing well, by placing Salvatore and the slow (..."piano, Barbara") if inexorable pace of justice in Italy in contrast to the fall of a sickle in the person of tabloid journalist, Mitchell Corsico. Corsico, who is constantly on deadline and who infects the course of justice with misinformation, makes us fear for Barbara who goes a long way out on a limb, only to have it cut off.

Elizabeth George is at the top of her game in this episode, continuing the legend of Lynley and Havers, both of whom we now know far better than our own loved ones at home. Davina Porter, narrator for the audio production, is also at the top of her game. She makes one marvel.

A word about the Italian phrases: George for the most part helps us out by giving us the meaning in subsequent sentences. Otherwise, we are confused, just as Havers is. This is intentional, and very nicely done. A little mystery within a mystery keeps us on our toes. About the length of the book I can only say that we readers made out like bandits. The cost per word is a bargain. While I ordinarily dislike huge novels, I’ve read several of the Lynley mysteries, and I always look forward to another. We have here one that could have qualified as two novels, but we only paid for one. I can’t think of another author that could have pulled this off within two years, or whatever it has been since George’s last book was published. It’s a miracle, no? I can hear George now: "Niente."

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores

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