In the previous novel Believing the Lie, Lynley has finally begun the healing process after the sudden death of his wife. While he is solving a murder in the Lake District, Havers is left behind in London, doing some investigative work for Lynley, but never at his side, as she usually is. But as the mystery is solved, a crisis appears at the end as Barbara's neighbor and best friend, nine-year-old Hadiyyah, disappears, prompting Havers' fans to eagerly anticipate the next book in this series.
Just One Evil Act picks up where the previous one left off, as Havers frantically begins her search for Hadiyyah, but she soon learns that the police are not going to help, since Hadiyyah was taken by her mother. Compounding the problem is that Tamar, Barbara's good friend and Hadiyyah's father, was never married to her mother Angelina and has no legal claim on his daughter. Barbara has promised Tamar, however, that she will find his daughter and in desperation turns to a private detective.
Every lead comes to a dead end, until several months later when Angelina suddenly re-appears in London, frantic because Hadiyyah has been kidnapped from an open-air Italian marketplace and accuses Tamar of the deed this time. Barbara is able to convince her superiors that Scotland Yard must finally get involved because the little girl is a British citizen, but rather than send her to Tuscany, the Yard sends Inspector Lynley instead.
Just when a happy resolution seems near, a new complication arises that causes Barbara to book a hasty trip to Tuscany, Yard-approved or not. Only she, she reasons, has the motivation and persistence to see that justice is done, and as it turns out, she is right. But in the process, surprising secrets are revealed, and Barbara must decide just how far she will bend the rules to protect her friends.
Just One Evil Act is full of surprising twists and turns and several sub-plots that all come together in the end, as is typical of an Elizabeth George novel. The last 100 pages is fast-paced and riveting, but the previous 619 could have used some editing. Seven-hundred page novels don't intimidate me, and I'm used to George's long novels, but there seemed to be some repetition and unnecessary detail, such as repeated interviews with the same suspects, that did nothing to advance the plot or character development.
I've said in previous reviews of her novels that character development is a big part of what makes George's books so appealing. Just One Evil Act is full of rich, interesting characters, but some of the major characters change in ways that are not so appealing. I’m a big fan of the fashion-challenged Sgt. Havers whose contrast to the well-bred Inspector Lynley often provides some comic relief. I was so looking forward to her playing a bigger role in this novel, but she is not quite the Barbara Havers we have come to know and love. Barbara is often in conflict with her superiors (other than Lynley), and she doesn’t mind bending the rules a bit to see that the guilty are punished. However, in this novel she goes far beyond "bending the rules" to the point that one begins to wonder if this normally moral and big-hearted woman has lost her sense of right and wrong. In her defense, however, Barbara's actions are blinded by emotion--trying to save two of the people she holds most dear. And perhaps that is George's intent--to make us think how far we, too, might go to protect the ones we love.
You might wonder why I chose this book to review when I seldom offer too many negative comments in my reviews. Despite the criticism, if you're a fan of this series, by all means, read it, but if you're new to the Thomas Lynley series, I'd recommend starting with one of the earlier books. The truth is, even with its flaws, Just One Evil Act is still an entertaining book, and any book by Elizabeth George, in my opinion, is ten times better than most mysteries on the book shelves
|Frankie and I are still waiting for the snow to melt.|
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Disclaimer: No compensation of any kind was received for this review, and I purchased my own copy of Just One Evil Act. As always, I review only books I enjoy and think others would enjoy reading too.