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by Elizabeth George
Hodder & Stoughton, September 2012
688 pages
7.99 GBP
ISBN: 1444730142

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

A family member is found dead in his parents' boathouse on Lake Windermere. Inspector Lynley is summoned from London to do a surreptitious investigation and the involvement of some friends has some unexpected consequences for the extended family.

Ian Cresswell was living with his lover and his two children in a remote Lake District farmhouse. When things became tense he often went sculling on Lake Windermere. On this occasion he didn't return, but was found dead in the boathouse where the boat was moored. Inspector Lynley gets a call from someone high up in the police force to carry out a very discreet investigation. So he takes leave from his complicated life in London and sets off with two close friends who take up the challenge to investigate with enthusiasm, as does a very inexperienced journalist trying to impress his boss. Trying to unravel the tissue of lies told by some members of the extended family and also to manage the imaginative excesses of his own friends leads Lynley to suspect that the death was just an accident, as already pronounced by the coroner. But the tenacity of the innocent amateur investigators eventually produces consequences that shed light on the truth.

This is a complicated plot with a number of different strands. It is understandable that each of the strands relating to the extended family are pursued, as are the ins and outs of Lynley's friends and the way in which they set about helping the investigation, but it is questionable whether all the others are necessary, including the thread regarding the background of Detective Sergeant Havers back in London, but having said that, the characterisation of both Lynley and Havers is so good that it rises above these considerations. Not surprisingly it is hard not to have the images from the television programmes in mind when reading the book.

And of course a Lynley story without Havers would be unthinkable. The other characters including children, foreign nationals, adults with various disabilities and bored housewives, are all exquisitely drawn. Elizabeth George appears to understand the children particularly well who are struggling under the complex and messy arrangements of modern adult life, the strategies they use to survive the chaos; the little girl bouncing endlessly on her trampoline in the garden, and the lad getting too involved in his life on the computer in his room.

The book is really full, not a pause to take a breath at any stage. It goes on relentlessly, hauling the reader along with it until the very end. It is hard to put down but causes exhaustion if too much is consumed in one attempt, yet it leaves behind a slight feeling of dissatisfaction, possibly due to the flawed characters, so brilliantly described and yet somehow not resolved.

Sylvia Maughan is a retired university lecturer, based in Bristol.

Reviewed by Sylvia Maughan, April 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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