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In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner by Elizabeth George
ISBN 0 3406 8931 5

Mystery Fiction
A Book Review by Alex Grant

A Great Deliverance on PBS this August

Inspector Lynley

The tenth novel in Californian Elizabeth George’s 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 on PBS/KCTS.

George’s 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 writers.

George’s 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 Lynley’s team by her erstwhile rival, black DC Winston Nkata, a hugely ambitious copper, also from the lower orders.
When Lynley’s services are requested in Derbyshire, at Buxton police HQ, by a retired former colleague of Thomas’s, Andrew Maiden, to help find the murderer of Andy’s 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 social betters.

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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