The Inspector Lynley-Seargent Havers Mystery Series

At 700+ pages the latest Inspector Lynley mystery 'A Traitor to Memory' I read, packs a pounding-when-is-this-tripe-ending-headache-inducing wallop. I have another one waiting in the wings, and I'm not sure that I even want to try reading it. I started re-reading the series in April, it's taken me 3 months to get to the 13th book and while when I first read them I enjoyed the first few immensely (hence, the re-read to catch up with the next in the series), only the grim determination to finish what I've started has kept me reading the last few.

The series deals with a New Scotland Yard detective pair Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley, who is also the 8th Earl of Asherton, and his working class partner Seargent Barbara Havers. The pair are assisted from time to time by Constable Winston Nkata. Alongwith these recurring characters we are also introduced to and follow the lives of Lynley's childhood friend, St. James, his wife Deborah St. James, Lynley's wife Lady Helen, Barbara's neighbours Taymullah Azhar and his daughter Haddiyah and a few others.

George's mysteries are different from the traditional detective story in that we get to know the principals exceedingly better over the course of her few books rather than the You're-It-I'm-Done detectives of the drawing room mysteries. What kept me reading in the earlier books was the delightful working relationship between Lynley and Barb, who hates toffs with a passion only secondary to her passion for food and that George started delving into intense psychological issues in the newer books.

But, George's writing is bleak, and her characters inhabit an unnecessarily hopeless world. Lynley has (inadvertently) crippled St. James, was Deborah's lover and Helen was once in love with St. James. As if these werent enough complications, Lynley has additional burdens added to his handsome shoulders. The rest of the characters introduced are often as traumatised and all the emotional angst can become very weary reading. Perhaps what I hate the most about her writing is that she introduces characters, sometimes interesting, and at the end doesnt allow them ANY resolution.

I've also started disliking George's writing because of the raw treatment she gives Havers. Over the course of the books you find that Barb is refreshingly normal, outspoken, courageous, empathetic, loyal and can do more detecting with the tip of her little finger than the perfect Lynley. After reading 10 books in which every character describes her as 'dumpy', the 11th book sees Barb being described as 'pug-like'. I guess Ms. George turned the page over on her thesaurus there.

Anyway, the following is a list of her work. The first few are good reads if you want a decent mystery with interesting characters and some psychological drama, caveat emptor on the rest.

1. A Suitable Vengeance - Lynley, the eighth Earl of Asherton, has taken Deborah Cotton his fiancee to his home at Cornwall. Along with them are Simon St. James, Lady Helen, and a few other guests. A murder at the ancestral mansion, sees Lynley and St. James doing the investigating and has the potential to bring out a bevy of skeleton's in the Asherton closets. The mystery isnt all that well thought out, but this book establishes all the relationships between the principals.

2. A Great Deliverance - A farmer is found mudered with his daughter standing over him, holding an axe and saying 'I did'nt do it'. Scotland Yard detectives Lynley and Havers, forced into a partnership by their superior officer, take this on. Good mystery and Havers and Lynley come to certain understandings about each other.

3. Payment in Blood - A playwright is murdered in a mansion in Scotland. When Lynley, St. James and Havers arrive to investigate, they find that Lady Helen Clyde is among one of the guests. Entertaining, but long and Lynley makes an intimate acquaintance with a certain green-eyed monster.

4. Well-Schooled in Murder - Lynley and Havers are called on to investigate the murder of a child belonging to a British public school. This is a decent mystery, but the going gets plodding when the author starts to delve into Deborah and St. James' marital problems.

5. For the Sake of Elena - Lynley and Havers investigate the murder of a student at Cambridge. Academic secrets, deceptions and lies are brought to the fore in this well-written story.

6. Missing Joseph - The murder of an English vicar has Lynley and St. James investigating. This is one of the better, more traditional, mysteries in the series, if one is not distracted by Deborah's maudlin depression.

7. Playing for the Ashes - An interesting murder mystery involving Lynley and Havers investigating the death of an English cricketeer. The book is bogged down because George decides to use a first-person POV of an unsympathetic, uninteresting character. Too long.

8. In the Presence of the Enemy - The best mystery in the series, a politician's child is kidnapped and Scotland Yard is called in to investigate. We have all the principals involved in this sordid story of politics and the gritty world of London tabloids.

9. Deception on his Mind - Barb follows her neighbour Azhar and daughter Haddiyah to Essex, where a Pakistani immigrant is murdered and offers her help to the local police. Even though the solution to the crime is totally unbelievable and the characters have no resolution, I enjoyed this book the best and soon realised it was because the incestuous foursome were completely absent here and we get to know Barbara much better.

10. In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner - or as I like to call it The One In Which Lynley is Full Of Sh*t and Barbara comes Out Smelling of Roses. . The daughter of Lynley's former mentor is murdered in Derbyshire and Scotland Yard is asked to investigate. At the end of this one, Lynley adds a suit of armour to the load of emotional baggage he already carries, and seriously if I were him I would have turned Papaya-Slasher a long while ago. Long and contrived.

11. A Traitor to Memory - A mysterious hit-and-run and a murder 20 years old have the team of Lynley, Havers and Nkata on their toes. The weakest in the series, George uses the first-person trick and a dodgy timeline to (supposedly) add interest to a flimsy murder mystery. Long, Bleak and Boring. This Papaya had mush for brains at the end of this book.

12. A Place of Hiding - More Deb and St. James - I just cant take them anymore. Skipped it.

13. With No One as Witness - Lynley, Nkata and Havers investigate a serial killer in London. George proves she cannot write police procedurals and should stick to what she does best. Oh, and she proves that she actually hates her much-vaunted detective creation. At the end of this book, I imagine Lynley to have become like Voldie after he died but didnt die, forced to slither along in darkness, something far, far less than human .... Fans of the series, would do well to stop at the previous one.

14. Careless in Red - Reviewed here.

4 comments:

S said...

Hmmmm...

Not my kind...

I have started the James Hadley Chase Case "Mission to Venice" & it looks inetersting...

Though when my colleague heard am reading that he gave me a stare and said that's for teenagers...I gave him strange look n said, so what? I realised that I hadn't read him so am reading it now :)

Good luck for No 12 & 13 :D

S

Mama - Mia said...

girl!!

you really have the patience!! i would have long given up!!

someday i hope to have time and money to read all the books you talk about!!!

cheers!

abha

couchpapaya said...

s - hehe thanks! i've never read chase either. let me know if it's good, will keep in mind when i next look for someone new to read ....

abha - i think i'm an optimist, i keep getting the next one hoping tht it'll get better :(

/p

Anonymous said...

I think you are giving a really good extract of her novels. I have read them all and like you I enjoyed the first the most mainly because of the working relationship between Barbara and Lynley. Can't stop reading her even if I feel she hasn't much more to say.

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