REVIEWS -JUST ONE EVIL ACT

Publisher’s Weekly
"This riveting tale of love, passion, and betrayal, the 18th Inspector Lynley novel from bestseller George (after 2012’s Believing the Lie), spotlights Det. Sgt. Barbara Havers. Taymullah Azhar, a science professor who’s a friend and neighbor of Havers in North London , is devastated to come home one day and discover that his nine-year-old daughter, Hadiyyah, and most of her possessions are gone. Hadiyyah’s mother, Angelina Upman, to whom Azhar was never married, has decamped to Italy with the girl. A grateful Azhar accepts Havers’s offer to act as a private detective, though her superiors resist her request for a leave of absence. Months later, when kidnappers take Hadiyyah from Angelina in an Italian marketplace, Lynley travels to Lucca , Tuscany , to look into the matter. Havers later goes AWOL to Lucca , where she seizes the initiative in the case and risks her career to persuade Scotland Yard to get involved. Fully realized Italian characters, from a lover whose face cannot hide his emotions to the charming Chief Insp. Salvatore Lo Bianco, add to the rich ensemble cast. Series fans will enjoy following Lynley and Havers on their first investigation outside the U.K. , while newcomers will be just as enthralled.


Library Journal
The newest installment in George's Inspector Lynley series picks up directly where Believing the Lie left off. Taymullah Azhar, Sgt. Barbara Havers's friend and neighbor, has come home to an empty house. His girlfriend, Angelina, has left with their daughter, Hadiyyah, leaving no trace. Azhar has no official parental rights to Haddiyah, as he and Angelina never married. Barbara helps Azhar hire a private investigator to try to locate Angelina and Hadiyyah. Several months later, Angelina returns. She and Hadiyyah have been living in Lucca , Italy , with Angelina's Italian lover. Now Angelina claims that Hadiyyah has been kidnapped and that Azhar is behind it. In a first for George, much of the action takes place in Tuscany , with Barbara's partner, Insp. Thomas Lynley, acting as a liaison officer for Angelina and Azhar during the search for their daughter. Barbara plays the starring role in the other half of the narrative, and the reader is caught up in just how quickly she goes off the rails, professionally and ethically, in the name of friendship.

VERDICT: This is a must for fans of this series. The twists and turns are vintage George and do not disappoint.
 

Lifestyle Magazine
One of Britain’s best-loved detectives, Inspector Lynley, returns in the latest intriguing mystery by international best-selling author, Elizabeth George. An exceptional book that you will find hard to put down due to its gripping storyline. A definite must read for fans of the novels, which have been adapted for BBC television, attracting 13 million viewers as The Inspector Lynley Mysteries.
When Hadiyyah Upman disappears from London wit her mother, Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers is as devastated as the girl’s father. Five months later, Hadiyyah is kidnapped form an open air market in Lucca, triggering a high-profile investigation. DI Thomas Lynley is assigned to handling a situation made delicate by racial issues, language difficulties, and the determination of an Italian magistrate to arrest and convict someone – anyone – for the crime.

 

Wall Street Journal
Elizabeth George combines an old-school aptitude for twist-riddled plots with ethical agonizing and sardonic humor.

'How times had changed in London," thinks police sergeant Barbara Havers, as the at-first cheerful sight of a Muslim cleric leading a pack of young schoolboys down the street then prompts ominous associations and anxious fears. "No one looked innocent any longer." In truth, the world has long seemed to hold more misery than happiness for Sgt. Havers, a single, 30-something woman with few friends, a tobacco addiction and a fashion sense exemplified by Flintstones T-shirts and cupcake socks.

The sergeant's solipsistic, rule-bending behavior escalates in "Just One Evil Act," among the most demanding and satisfying of the many detective novels by Elizabeth George featuring Havers and her New Scotland Yard partner, Inspector Thomas Lynley. Even the compassionate Lynley comes to doubt not only Havers's fitness as a police officer but her sanity.

It took a while for Havers and Lynley to achieve their rapport. In the duo's debut, "A Great Deliverance" (1988), Havers's first impression of highborn Lynley is far from charitable: "He was a miraculous combination of every single thing that she thoroughly despised. . . . A public school voice, and a bloody family tree that had its roots somewhere just this side of the Battle of Hastings."

Over this long series of novels, fate deals Lynley a series of blows, as if to balance the scales against the good fortune to which he was born. His best friend is crippled by a car accident in which Lynley was the driver. In "A Suitable Vengeance" (1991), Lynley's drug-taking brother is accused of murder. After a long courtship, Lynley and his charming fiancée marry at the conclusion of "In the Presence of the Enemy" (1996), but we learn in later books that their story is far from over.

The author combines an old-school aptitude for twist-riddled plots with modern psychological insights, ethical agonizing, realistic violence and sardonic humor. ("The man himself was nothing to look at and less to talk about . . . ," Havers notes of a witness, "except for his dandruff, which was extraordinary and copious. One could have cross-country skied on his shoulders.")

Ms. George writes in a prose unafraid of detailed descriptions and elaborate scene settings. ("The new growth of spring was thick and lush as they climbed into the mountains, and the wildflowers splashed yellow, violet, and red in swathes of colour along verges and into the trees.") Her increasingly lengthy books may seem to take a long time declaring their intentions—but by then the reader is caught and held by Ms. George's carefully woven story-strands.

The author explores various dysfunctional family groups, often in specialized, semi-enclosed environments: local theater ("Payment in Blood," 1989); an independent boys' school ("Well-Schooled in Murder," 1990); championship cricket ("Playing for the Ashes," 1995); the worlds of sleazy newspapers and politics ("In the Presence of the Enemy," 1996); a racially mixed seaside town in Essex ("Deception on His Mind," 1997). And of course the police too are a self-contained, semi-dysfunctional family.

What drives Havers to the brink, and maybe beyond, in "Just One Evil Act" is her desperate efforts to help the two best friends she has made: a Pakistani microbiologist and his 9-year-old daughter, neighbors she loves with the fervor of a blood relation. When the little girl is abducted by her mother, Havers cuts official corners in attempting to trace the youngster's whereabouts, becoming entangled with dubious private detectives and computer hackers. When the Pakistani girl is kidnapped again, in Italy, Havers brings her problematic ways and mounting desperation to that country—accompanied by a scandal-mongering faux-cowboy journalist who explains: "Facts are interesting, but innuendo is what gives a story its charm. . . . Circumstantial rubbish is our bread and butter." In addition to the Yard's intrigue-ridden doings, this new work shows the more dangerous (if amusing) deeds of an Italian police squad where despotic careerists defend their turf not just with face-saving memos but with fists and feet.

Havers's absence (without leave) brings home to Lynley how important her partnership is to him: "When she was on . . . she gave the job her life's blood. She was fearless when it came to challenging an opinion with which she didn't agree. . . . She didn't pull a forelock in anyone's presence. That was the sort of officer one wanted on one's team."
 

The Seattle Times
We get hooked on a mystery series for the comfort of the familiar, for time spent with characters we’ve come to know and love, for the reassuring feeling that our detective-hero will somehow make things turn out right. And we want the characters to grow and change, but not too much. (For those who, like me, are eagerly following Sue Grafton’s journey through the alphabet: nobody out there is hoping Kinsey moves out of Henry’s rental apartment and buys her own place, right?)

So fans should be reassured to hear that Elizabeth George’s “Just One Evil Act,” (Dutton, 723 pp., $29.95) the 18th novel in the Whidbey Island author’s excellent Inspector Lynley series, keeps things mostly to the status quo. After dramatically killing off a main character in “With No One as Witness,” George has perhaps rightly guessed that readers can only handle so much change, and so “Just One Evil Act” unfolds along familiar lines.

Little Hadiyyah Upman, daughter of Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers’ neighbor and friend Taymullah Azhar, has been kidnapped (for the second time in her eventful life, poor kid; she was previously snatched in “Deception on His Mind”). Detective Inspector Lynley counsels prudence; Havers, in her usual fashion, plunges headlong into the case with little regard for rules and protocol; and a complex tale spins out, rushing us from London to Italy and back again.

George, an American who lives in the Pacific Northwest, has an uncanny ear for dialogue (and Britishisms); you hear the characters in your head long after putting the book down. And the voice you hear most strongly here is one of her most beloved characters: Havers, the disheveled, lonely sergeant whose inclination to let her heart rule her head takes her to dangerous places. Those of us who’ve devoured the Lynley mysteries know that she’s long been in love with Azhar (without the books ever really having to say it) and adores Hadiyyah — so this case is just the right one for her to run off the rails.

And she does, gloriously, in her collection of high-top trainers and ratty T-shirts (my favorite slogan “No Toads Need to Pucker Up”), trademark smart-ass repartee, habitual nutritional chaos, and utterly endearing loyalty. Might she cross paths again some day with the charming Italian Chief Inspector Salvatore Lo Bianco, who thinks she has an “extraordinarily lovely smile?” Let’s hope. Longtime readers may wonder if Havers will ever be allowed to learn from her mistakes (really, does she think a game of tit-for-tat with a sleazy tabloid reporter could possibly turn out well?), but she’s, as always, a delight to spend time with.

Meanwhile, the noble Lynley (we’re reminded that he dresses “in an elegantly rumpled and casual manner that suggested mounds of money and self-confidence”) continues to slowly heal from his wife’s death; Acting Detective Superintendent Isabelle Ardery remains prickly and yet intriguing; Detective Sergeant Winston Nkata makes a tantalizingly brief appearance, as if just waving hello to readers; a host of other characters in London and Italy join the narrative; and mysterious British foods, such as a “bacon butty” (guess who eats it?), are consumed. It’s a pleasure no less enjoyable for being familiar; you finish the book longing for the next installment to arrive swiftly, so as to hear Lynley and Havers’ voices again.
 

THE INDEPENDENT - LONDON
For three decades, the American writer Elizabeth George has demonstrated that she is the ultimate Anglophile, setting her novels in the UK. But she has shown her surprise at the power of the English tabloids and noted that, when she presents their behaviour in outrageous terms, the real-life equivalents will always outdo her fictional versions. The red-tops are central to this latest book, which is George's War and Peace, at least in terms of length (an imposing 700-odd pages). But this is no mere indulgence, as the author has broadened her range in terms of setting (a vividly drawn Italy) and introduced an intriguing new character, the saturnine Inspector Salvatore Lo Bianco. It's clear, too, that George finds the Italian police and judicial system bizarre. Dropping Inspector Thomas Lynley into this milieu is a clever touch.

While Lynley struggles to deal with the death of his wife, Helen, DS Barbara Havers moves centre stage. The daughter of a close friend and neighbour of Barbara's disappears in London, in the company of her mother. Hadiyyah, the young girl, reappears five months later and is kidnapped from an open-air market in Lucca.

Scotland Yard is reluctant to get involved until Barbara realises that by finessing the most unscrupulous of the British tabloids she can bring about an investigation. The Amanda Knox trial is clearly part of the narrative DNA here and George has spoken of the frenzy with which the British tabloids settled on Knox as a villain: the "Foxy Knoxy" syndrome. But it is not Barbara who is sent to Italy; rather, her superior officer DI Lynley is obliged to cope with language problems and racial issues.

The new elements here have had an energising effect on George's work, which had recently lost some of its original freshness. Her treatment of the Mediterranean settings (along with a raft of intriguing new characters) shows a new exuberance. The prodigious sprawl of the book will perhaps rule it out for any casual readers, but George aficionados will consider that Just One Evil Act possesses (as Schumann said of Schubert's Great C Major symphony) "heavenly length".
 


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