Inspector Lynley returns for a bout of trans-European hijinks—his first adventure outside Old Blighty.
Though an American herself, it’s taken George time to build a domestic audience for her long-running Lynley series, adapted for British television and then repatriated as an occasional Masterpiece Mystery offering. George’s hero is a nod to Dorothy Sayers, though Lynley, a discomfited lord working among the peasants of Scotland Yard, lacks most of Peter Wimsey’s affectations. For the first time in many volumes, George again pairs Lynley with tough-talking northerner Barbara Havers, who’s not always scrupulous about the letter of the law; as she tells one investigator, “I don’t care if you break laws or not....Spy on anyone you need to spy on. Go through their rubbish. Hack into their mobiles and their Internet accounts. Take over their email.” Rupert Murdoch would be proud, but Havers has a fraught mission: The daughter of a friend has been kidnapped in Italy, where her mother, estranged from that friend, has taken the child. Said friend, a Pakistani microbiologist, may not be entirely innocent—and in all events, it seems, shadowy parties want daughter and mother. Though the book is too long by a couple of hundred pages, George is a master of the wily plot and the timely tossed out red herring. She’s also not bad at the icky but effective detail: “Maggots still writhed in the man’s eyes, nose, and mouth; beetles had been feasting on his skin; mites and millipedes scurried into the open neck of his linen shirt.” Yet the book goes on long enough that some of the dramatic force is blunted; it could have benefited from some economizing. Too, George falls victim to the local-color gambit, insisting that ordinary terms be put into the other language: A cellphone is a cellphone is a cellphone, so calling it a telefonino to emphasize the fact that we’re in Italy is more than a touch precious.
George’s fans will be glad to see Havers back in action, even though, as ever, she’s quick to land in trouble. And as for Lynley—well, he’s as cool as ever, in more than one sense of the word.