Monday, February 20, 2012

Believing the lie, by Elizabeth George

Cover image from Elizabeth George website

Elizabeth George has done it again. In Believing the Lie (New York: Dutton, 2012), she's created a deeply tangled mystery around conflicted yet oh-so-believable characters, and made the reader sympathize with them. Character flaws, blunders and lies: this story has plenty.

Has there even been a murder, or just a tragic blunder? George's characters are only human, and often they fail. She exposes her flawed characters to extreme pressure and peril, making readers catch their breath. Somehow we keep right on rooting, often even for the most unappealing antagonists.

In this novel, as in earlier works, George does not shy away from engaging the reader with truly nasty people. Mignon, in opposition to her name, is a real piece of work, and so is Niamh. A third female character seems nicer than expected -- until we find out she's not.

Nicholas is a reformed addict who's trying hard to redeem himself. His beloved wife has a terrible secret in her past. Once their separate tragedies have been revealed, we sympathize with both of them, as we do with the parents of Nicholas, who both want and don't want Lynley to find out what they've asked him to investigate.

Readers may want to despise the bumbling half-hearted journalist Zed, but they can't. To keep his job, this failed poet is prepared to plaster people's personal pain over the pulp press; yet when we learn of the final blunder he is about to make on the front page of the rag he works for, we have no choice but to sympathize -- at least a little.

In this book, Inspector Tommy Lynley is required to work undercover in a way that defies belief. He works closely with his trusted friends Simon and Deborah St. James, but Deborah's personal obsession causes her to blunder terribly.

With his partner Sergeant Barbara Havers, Lynley communicates only by telephone. Both face their own quite different crises, and in neither case are these directly related to to the case at hand -- if, indeed, case is the right word.

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