Pursuit of the Proper Sinner by Elizabeth George
ISBN 0 3406 8931 5
A Book Review by Alex Grant
Great Deliverance on PBS this August
The tenth novel in Californian Elizabeth Georges Thomas Lynley/Barbara
Havers series of crime novels, each set in London, England and its surrounding
South-Eastern and North-Western counties, In Pursuit
is large and
somewhat intimidating, at 716 pages.
Often cited as an heiress to the Agatha Christie tradition, George could
never stand accused of conciseness and terseness, unlike Dame Agatha.
She is an expansive novelist given to immensely intricate (if not sprawling)
plots akin to those of British melodrama maestro, Robert Goddard.
The very first Lynley/Havers book A Great Deliverance (1988) has been
filmed by the BBC, as have been three other novels of Georges) and will
be televised tonight, August 19th, and next Monday night, August 26th
Georges eleventh and twelfth such novels A Traitor to Memory and
A Place of Hiding will soon be published, the first in softcover. George
has to date sold ten million copies of her books.
She was one of the first Americans to write convincingly about British
police procedures and the inevitable class divisions of a society for
so long based upon blood and family ties; not upon merit and excellence.
Martha Grimes was also one of the first such transplanted American mystery
Georges protagonists are Lynley, the Earl of Asherton, a dashing
gold blonde true blue blood and Havers, a working class scrubber and member
of the lumpenproletariat. Lynley can often be too good to be true. His
cohorts are blue bloods too newly wed to Lady Helen, Countess of
Asherton, Thomas is devoted to his boyhood friend, forensic scientist,
Simon St. James, whose disablement Lynley was directly responsible for.
Simon wears a confining leg-brace due to a car crash precipitated by Thomas.
Deborah St. James is a professional photographer.
Havers is, of course, the rank outsider to this clique of privileged and
entitled public-school products and personages.
At the start of In Pursuit
Havers has been demoted to a Detective
Constable and has seemingly been supplanted in Lynleys team by her
erstwhile rival, black DC Winston Nkata, a hugely ambitious copper, also
from the lower orders.
When Lynleys services are requested in Derbyshire, at Buxton police
HQ, by a retired former colleague of Thomass, Andrew Maiden, to
help find the murderer of Andys daughter, Nicola, Havers is left
in the lurch back in London. She has blotted her escutcheon and her record
too has been permanently marrer by her disobedience in the field even
though her rebelliousness saved a child from drowning. Havers self-respect
is crumbling apace.
So is the self-respect of Detective Inspector Peter Hanken of Buxton,
whose nose has been put out of joint by the intrusion of D.I. Lynley of
Scotland Yard into his case, the Calder Moor deaths. Hanken detests his
George adroitly spins her encircling web of intrigue and of allegiances
with deft, swift moves, often quicker and silkier than either the eye
or the hand.
© Alex Grant August 2002
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