Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Book Review: Believing the Lie

Inspector Thomas Lynley is back at work again--this time investigating a suspicious death in Cumbria, near the Lake District immortalized in Wordsworth's poetry.  The nephew of wealthy Bernard Fairclough has drowned in what the coroner's investigation has ruled an accidental death, but Lord Fairclough isn't so sure.  In particular, Fairclough is worried that his son Nicholas, a recovering drug addict, might have been involved.  Assistant Commissioner Hillier asks Lynley to investigate the death as a favor to Fairclough, but to do it discreetly.

Lynley, ever the gentleman, has no problem being discreet, but this means keeping his mission and whereabouts a secret from Isabelle Ardery, creating a strain in their relationship.  He also has to avoid his two colleagues Barbara Havers and Winston Nkata; instead, Lynley enlists the aid of his two long-time friends, Simon and Deborah St. James in uncovering the truth about the drowning. 

As the three of them visit the site of the drowning and interview members of the Fairclough family, they find themselves no closer to the truth about the victim's death.  However, they do find a multitude of secrets hidden by the Faircloughs, secrets that once revealed, threaten to tear the family apart.  Deborah St. James is especially drawn to the case when she meets Nicholas Fairclough's wife, with whom she shares a special bond; even when Lynley and her husband decide the investigation is over, she refuses to give up until everything is out in the open. 

Typical of an Inspector Lynley novel, there are many storylines involved in this novel. Besides the various problems of the Faircloughs, there is the ongoing story of Zed Benjamin, an aspiring journalist working as a tabloid reporter.  Trying to dig up "dirt" to impress his editor and keep his job, Benjamin's sleuthing creates somewhat of a problem for Lynley's investigation but also creates some comic relief. And, of course, a Lynley novel wouldn't be complete without the trials of Sgt. Barbara Havers whose complete lack of style sense is a source of irritation for her boss, Supt. Ardery.  In the process of trying to achieve a makeover, Havers enlists the aid of her new neighbor and begins to have a grudging admiration for her.  Although the stories come together with a few surprising twists in the conclusion,  Believing the Lie is more about the characters than in solving a mystery.

As a long-time fan of Elizabeth George, I had fully intended to buy this book, but after reading a few readers' less than glowing reviews on various websites, I hesitated and checked it out of the library instead.
When I finished the book, I went back to read some reviewers' remarks again, puzzled by their criticisms.  Yes, the resolution of Tim, the troubled son of the victim, is a little unbelievable, and the shocking secret revealed near the end isn't all that shocking.  But neither of those points take away from the book's overall success.  One criticism I do agree with is that there isn't enough of Barbara Havers. The loveable but sloppy Sgt. Havers does most of her detective work in this novel by sneaking around Scotland Yard to search the internet instead of interacting directly with Inspector Lynley.  But a surprise at the end--which I will not give away here!--suggests that she will have a much bigger role in the next book of this series, which should please all of her fans, including me. 

I've been shocked by the ending of a George novel (With No One As Witness) and totally depressed after another (What Came Before He Shot Her), but I've never been disappointed in her writing. Granted this novel isn't as suspenseful as some of her earlier novels, but as I said, George's books are as much about character development as plot.  For first time readers of Elizabeth George, I highly recommend starting with the first of the Inspector Lynley novels to get to know the characters.  For long-time fans, I would definitely recommend Believing the Lie.  As for me, I am eagerly awaiting the next in the series to find out what happens next!

Disclaimer:  No compensation of any kind was received for this review.  I review only books I like and think others would enjoy reading;  I either purchase my own copy or, as in the case of this book, check them out from my local library.  

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@Barrie Summy


  1. I'm going to have to look for Elizabeth George. I so dearly love suspenseful novels! Lately I've been on a Ted Bell kick but am ready for a change. I like the idea of intrigue in this book amongst the family.

  2. I never use amazon reviews as a guide. They are often dead wrong about a book. But I have fallen off in my reading of George's books. They are so long and increasingly brevity is a real plus with me.

  3. I think if something appeals to you then it doesn't really matter what others think...... though it is lovely to share a book that you've enjoyed with someone else and know that they enjoyed it too.
    I will look out for it.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  4. Rose. I'd love to read this book. You wrote about it and I will wait this book in translation into Russian. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Oh, Elizabeth George is one of my favorite authors --maybe my very favorite. Not only do I love the complexity of the stories, but I love the way she uses words. I wait impatiently for each new Inspector Lynley book.

    I did not finish "What Came Before He Shot Her". It was just too depressing.

  6. I'm amazed at the number of mysteries reviewed this month! Something must be in the autumn air, :) Thank you for advice about starting with the first in the series. And thank you for joining in!

  7. Hi again Rose :-) I do like a good mystery and have read some of her books in the past. This one sounds interesting too...but I still have that towering pile of 'still to reads' so daren't add to it for a while! An excellent review, I think you should be snapped up by a magazine to do regular book reviews :-)

    I just left a belated comment on your previous post.

  8. I like the sound of a mystery set in Lake District of Wordsworth poetry and good characterization. I also liked how you considered other people's reaction to this book. Terrific review!

  9. I like suspense novels but don't know Elizabeth George. Will have to see if she is in our library.

  10. Thanks for the recommendation--my book club is picking books next week!

  11. I like Elizabeth George. My favorite character is actually Barbara Havers. I'll have to check this one out.

  12. Sounds interesting. I seldom if ever read mysteries. I sometimes think I must miss out on a lot of good books because I don't read novels. I will have to check this one out.

  13. I haven't read this series....Must check them out!

  14. The television series out me off the books but maybe I should give it a try.

  15. Tina, I'll warn you--her books are very long. I'd definitely recommend starting with the first ones, if you do read one of these.

    Pattinase, I'm beginning to think the same of Amazon books; I downloaded a free one on my Kindle that was absolutely terrible, yet received glowing reviews.

    Maggie, You're right--when I find an author I like, I read everything he/she has written. George is such a good writer, that I'll read anything she's written.

    Nadezda, I'm sure George's books are translated into many languages; I'd love to know how her writing sounds in Russian!

    Cassie, How wonderful to meet a fellow George fan! Unlike so many authors who seem sometimes just to rush to meet a deadline, she hasn't disappointed me. I know what you mean about "What Came...", though--that was one depressing book! Still, it was well-written; I did feel sorry for the boy who shot Helen in the end.

    Barrie, I noticed that, too--perhaps we're all looking for some escapism right now??

  16. Songbird, Thanks so much for the nice compliment. Hmmm, getting paid for reading that sounds quite appealing:) I'm glad you enjoyed the maple tree on my last post. Yes, we have lots of birds on our property, though they prefer the crabapples and other trees to the maple. I just saw my first downy-headed woodpecker the other day--a sure sign that winter is on its way.

    Sarah, I've always wanted to visit the Lake District; have you? I've often wondered if the ruin of Tintern Abbey still exists.

    Janet, George's books are good reads for cold winter nights--they're pretty lengthy!

    Plantpostings, I'd love to know what book you pick--we have a new book club and seem to spend a lot of time trying to find a new selection each month.

    Jason, Definitely! Barbara Havers is my favorite, too. She's more down-to-earth than Lynley, and I seem to be drawn to characters who can't quite get their act together but have a big heart. I think she'll surely play a big role in the next book.

    Sally, After reading and re-reading so many classics over my years of teaching, these days I prefer to read something lighter. Mysteries are my absolute favorite.

    Gail, I highly recommend these books!

    Liz, There is a television series of these?? Was it on BBC? I wouldn't be surprised that it didn't do George's books justice.

  17. Hi Rose, I have never read an Elizabeth George novel, can you believe it? Her books are loved by so many. I'm starting to collect my winter reading. I'll put this one on the list.

    You commented on the Virgil Flower's novel. I know what you mean. That book was a rough one. Sandford's novels before and since have not had such distasteful subject matter. I hope you will give him a second chance. He is my favorite author.


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