Tuesday, July 13, 2010

This Body of Death - Elizabeth George (audio)

I first lost my heart to Elizabeth George and the Inspector Lynley series years ago with her 2005 chunkster "With No One As Witness". As murder mysteries go, it blew me away...intense character development, heinous crimes, a fast-pace, and a gritty reality to it all. I realized too late that this book was one in a very long line from a series, but it stood alone in its brilliance. I've since listened to "Careless in Red" and now "This Body of Death". I long to go back and read everything from the beginning, but I'm thinking I'd better save that for retirement. As it was, I was thrilled to see that "Body of Death" was on the list for the EW Summer Books Challenge.

This story starts out with a type of narrative, one deduces from the past, describing an event with three delinquent boys, a dead toddler, and an unspeakable crime. It is like a shot of adrenaline, this "report". The combination of the horror of the boys' actions, and the clinical prose, is the stuff of nightmares. The narrative is slowly spoon-fed to us, intermittently, throughout the novel. It is obvious the characters in this morbid tale are going to play a vital role in the rest of the novel; we're just not sure how.

We fast-forward to the present. Lynley is back from his leave of absence and has been invited to assist his old department with a particularly gruesome murder of a young woman who was stabbed and abandoned in a London cemetery. The department is now being temporarily led by Isabelle Ardery, who must prove herself before she gets the job permanently. Ardery has a few demons of her own, and Lynley might possibly be her only ally and her ticket to acceptance. Assisting on the case is the usual gang, including the rough-around-the-edges Barbara Havers and the dignified Winston Nkata, both of whom I am quite fond.

Once they begin digging, they find a whole cast of shady suspects, all with hidden agendas and secrets of their own. We wade through the puzzle with our investigators, expending much mental energy. A hidden pregnancy test. An ancient coin. A false, untraceable identity. A mentally disturbed witness. Then there is that little problem with the dead toddler. Where does that play into things?

George also weaves in a personal element. For die-hard fans of the series, we have some interaction with Simon and Deborah St. James, old friends of Lynley's, some insight into the lives of Barbara Haver's 8 year-old neighbor and her father, Ardery's ex-husband and twin sons, and Haver's attempt to ditch the draw-string pants and look more professional. There are many detours in this long and winding path.

The recurring thought, as I was listening to this audio, was "words, words, so many words". We love George for this, as it allows us to read her works as a full-immersion experience. It is like kicking off your shoes, getting on your hands and knees and crawling into the book, and under the skin of a majority of the characters. But there are so many words, so much detail. I questioned whether the story needed a little editing. Perhaps. But I will forgive her. And I will come back for more.

The audio was narrated by John Lee, who was extremely good. He is so very British, easy to listen to, and versatile. I would liken him to a slightly rougher Simon Vance, which is no light complement, coming from me.

Are any of you fans of the series? Would you recommend going back and readin the earlier installments?

4 out of 5 stars

22 comments:

Mystica said...

I've only read George as audio books are thin in my part of the world but this latest one has not reached us as yet. Sounds good (as usual).

Serena said...

I haven't read or listened to these books, but this sounds fascinating!

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

Is this the same Inspector Lyndley series that runs on Masterpiece Theater with Helen Mirren?

Elizabeth George is one of those authors who have been on my list forever and a day, but I've always been unsure of which to start with. Her books seem universally loved.

Maybe I should read this series....hmmmm.

Zibilee said...

I have never read anything by George, but your enthusiasm over her work really makes me want to try something! I am so glad you liked this book. It sounds awesome, and now I am off to look up some of her work!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

This *is* the same as the Inspector Lyndley series. And I *would* recommend reading from the backlist. This Body of Death is actually somewhat different than previous books, and not as good as they are, in my opinion (even though I liked this one). And if you read the backlist you will see why there has been so much outrage about Lyndley taking up with Ardery!

Kay said...

I've read Elizabeth George's series for years and years. I love the Lynley/Havers dynamic. The first book is A GREAT DELIVERANCE, followed by 14 more and then this one. It would be a big job to go back and read them all, but I love them. Truly.

I think they did a good job with the TV series. The characters are not exactly the same, i.e. Lynley is supposed to be fair and the actor who plays him is dark, but I loved that as well. If you like British mysteries, that series is a good pick.

Melissa M said...

I'm usually a stickler for reading a series in order, but you have me considering finding my copy of With No One as Witness, which is somewhere in my house...

Literate Housewife said...

I'm going to have to check this series out. I get two credits at the end of the month. Thanks for the lead! :)

The Bumbles said...

I think I'd be interested in watching that Masterpiece Theater series adaption! I come here for books and I end up with TV suggestions ;0)

bermudaonion said...

I've never read any of George's work, but she is on my list of authors I want to try. This one sounds wonderful.

Julie P. said...

It is a chunkster! I've been meaning to get to it, but it is a little intimidating.

Nymeth said...

I've never read any Elizabeth George, but I already like her anyway because she wrote the introductions to my editions of Dorothy L. Sayers' books. I'm glad to hear this series is so good! I'm definitely going to give it a try sometime.

Jenners said...

I've never read anything by her and I'm wondering why I haven't!

Kathleen said...

I don't think I've ever read anything by George yet but for some reason I think I might have one of her books on my shelf at home. I'll have to check it out tonight.

Iliana said...

Ok, I sort of glossed over your review but that's because I'm still very early on in the series! :) Glad to hear you enjoyed the book.

I've read the first three books and have really enjoyed them. Lots of good character development. So yes, go back to the first ones! Hmm, now I am wondering if I should start #4 tonight :)

Catherine Ensley said...

I haven't read this book, but I once went to hear Elizabeth George give a talk about her writing. She seemed quite depressed, and she kept talking about her "miserable life," although she never got specific. She saw her writing as the one good thing in her miserable life.

Beth F said...

The only one I tried to read was the book that takes place in Guernsey (because I lived there for a little while). I just couldn't get into it. I don't know what the problem was. I love the Masterpiece Mystery show.

heidenkind said...

George's books are too depressing for me. I like the TV series on Masterpiece Mystery, so I started reading the books, but I couldn't get through book two.

Darlene said...

I've never read any of George's novels but this has prompted me to go and pick up her first one and see if I'm going to like it.

Mary said...

I recently read "This Body of Death" and did enjoy it. It was rather long though. I'm glad I came across your review however because I didn't realize that it was part of a series. Based on the other comments I do think I'll try and read the beginning books and see if I have a new favorite!

Anna said...

I'm not familiar with this author or series, but you've certainly made me want to give the books a try at some point.

Literary Feline said...

I have just about all this author's books but have only read one so far--it wasn't even the first in the series. I bought a lot of them on e-bay several years ago when I was going through my "must have entire series before I start reading" phase. What was I thinking?? Anyway, one of these days I will start with the first book and read my way through them.