Review: Careless In Red

Rating: 2.5 / 5

I know I said that I would stop reading Elizabeth George, but after the twist in her last novel - which shocked millions of fans worldwide this Papaya being no exception - I knew that I would have to at least read this one just to see where she was taking the series.

For an introduction to Elizabeth George and her Lynley-Havers mystery series go here.

After the events of the previous book, Lynley has taken some time off from New Scotland Yard and is engaged on a walking tour of the coast of Cornwall, where his ancestral home is located. One day at the foot of a cliff near the picturesque Polcare Cove, the holiday home of vet Daidre Trahair, he finds the body of a climber.

The body is of a local boy, Santo Kerne. Santo is like the Energizer bunny, upto a lot of stuff, none of it good however. Santo has broken up with his girlfriend Madlyn after making her pregnant, has an older lover, a sister who will inherit the family business after him, a father who was suspiciously involved in a similar death years ago and an unstable mother channelling Mrs. Robinson. To add to these are a local boy who loves Madlyn, Madlyn's father and a surrogate grandfather who are mad at what Santo has done to Madlyn. Sex, jealousy, money, rage, the motives for doing away with Santo are plenty and more.

DI Beatrice Hannaford, in charge of the investigation, with a limited number of officers available to her in out-o-the-way Cornwall, quickly realises that she might as well use Lynley's expertise even though he is a suspect. Lynley turns to Barbara Havers for help and soon the duo are doing what they do best.

While George is back to her old style of writing, instead of the police procedural format she chose for the previous one, I didnt find myself getting involved in this story as much. She adds to her repertoire of dysfunctional families, however I knew even while reading that a large number of the sub-plots were getting nowhere and I didnt particularly like any of the characters. And a lot of times the story felt static, even though I skimmed .... a LOT. 620 pages will do that for you.

But, Lynley is back, people!!! And I'm always happy to see Barb who livens up the proceedings the minute she steps in, these two are the sole reason this gets the extra half points in the rating. I did feel it was impossible for him to recover after the last book but George does a great job with continuity for her fans exploring his grief and subsequent re-connection with the world, even having him getting protective of Daidre who the police suspect is lying through her teeth. Of course, this being George she gives that sub-plot no resolution, but at least it shows Lynley almost ready to return to his world.

So, summing up, a book to be read only as part of the series. Others will definitely find it a boring read, and as there are plenty of George's novels in the series which make great reads I see no reason for someone to start here.

I sense George has this evil formula thing going on here, until she keeps cranking out these novels I will be compelled to read them. I'm not going to fight it anymore ....


samir said...

Thanks for introducing me to a new author (again); this one sounds promising; I will certainly read a few (looked at your nice overview.)

I have this interesting story re: Agatha Christie (sticking to female mystery writers.) A woman co-worker and friend wrote her Master's Thesis on the Portrayal Of Women in Agatha Christie's Novels. Her conclusion was that most A.C. female characters were written to appeal to the prevailing MC POV. What do you think ?

Smita said...


Am for sure staying away from this author though won't say that for your reviews ;-)

Tell me something P have read Salem Falls & Sister's Keeper from Jodi, which else book from her stable is good? I remember reading one more review from u on one of her books...

WhatsInAName said...

hmmm i love 2 types of books- witty and mysteries/thrillers! Just picked a Sandra Brown. I will keep this author in mind.
Wanted to ask you if you have read Dante Club? Whats your view on it?

couchpapaya said...

samir - even characters like miss marple and tuppence ? i thought her women were contemporary, other authors of mysteries who wrote in the same time frame like heyer or mm kaye seem to have the same character types .... but then of course i never read with much attention beyond the mysteries :) do u remember the main points of the thesis?

smita - i think the book i reviewed was called the pact or something like that. i didnt like the subject much, deals with teen suicide ...

WIAN - no i havnt read the dante club, but thanks for giving me the name. sounds v. interesting :)

Mama - Mia said...

and keep giving us the reviews!

my book shopping has been pending for soo long! some or y=the other expense keep making me push this one back! gah!

great review as always woman!



samir said...

The points as I vaguely remember were :-
1) Many of AC's women characters were interested in plain old gossip and were always subservient to male characters.
2) They did not tend to rock the boat, or take the initiative.

I also never read beyond the mystery; but on the net did find a lot of feminists complaining about AC's portrayal of women.

Now armed with some research and some hindsight (always a dangerous combo in my case); the difference in Hercule Poirot & Miss Marple validates the thesis around the edges. HP is always flamboyant, egotistical, enjoys good food & wine; whereas MM takes the back-seat and is never shown enjoying anything expensive.
(HeHeHe, amateurish psychoanalysis.)

(BTW picked up and started reading an Elizabeth George book "In the presence of the enemy"; Good so far.)

couchpapaya said...

abha - get into crossword immediately girl !!

samir - hmm i should read up some of the criticism too, but women's lib was still more than 2 decades away so I dont think the character types deviated from what was the reality of the time. but, as my memories of the novels are very dim i really cannot say with any clarity. certainly when i was reading i never got the impression that there was any overt MC'ism going on. anyways, will read more and reply intelligently :D have fun with the george, that is certainly the most interesting one i found!

eye-in-sty-in said...

cannot concentrate @ 3 am and dont want to read ur writings in a hurry! Will b back later....

avdi said...

I just finished reading a mystery called Stuck On You written by Patti Berg. I would call it a comic-erotic-thriller. whew.. The heroine was an amateur detective who suspects a hunk only to find herself in sack with him for some torrid stuff, while the mystery is solved.

Samir - nice analysis there. I suppose Ms. Christie was merely reflecting the society of her times. Its like calling Jane Austen feudal - well she was, those times were like that.

couchpapaya said...

EISI - ok

avdi - there u go, u always manage to say succintly what i bumble around with for paragraphs. thanks! :) the book sounds smokin' will keep in mind :D

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