Hatchette Live Australia, 2008
Reviewed by Kerrie Smith
Crime Fiction - Thriller
Elizabeth George fans have been waiting a while for this new novel. WITH
NO ONE AS WITNESS, in which Lynley's wife Helen was murdered, was
published in 2005; and WHAT CAME BEFORE HE SHOT HER, which explained how
she came to be murdered, in 2006. In terms of modern day publishing, the
wait for the next Lynley & Havers case has been quite long. But in fact
the "virtual time" lapse between novels is nowhere near that long.
The blurb on the back of the book begins, "It is barely three months since
the murder of his wife and Thomas Lynley has taken to the South-West Coast
Path in Cornwall, determined to walk its length in an attempt to recover
from his loss..."
Six weeks into the walk he finds the body of a young man who appears to
have fallen down a cliff to the beach and Lynley's built in knowledge of
what to do about a crime scene kicks in.
But Lynley is obviously not ready to return to work. Not only has he been
sleeping rough for six weeks, he is bearded, unwashed, and he smells. He
tries to get away without identifying himself but someone recognises his
name. As the person who reports the discovery of the body, he also finds
himself at first as a suspect.
Lynley is co-opted into the investigation by D.I. Bea Hannaford, into
whose lap it has fallen because she is short staffed. Her gut feeling is
that, despite appearances, he is not a suspect but feels she can use him
to find out more about other suspects, for example Daidre Trehair who owns
the cottage closest to where Lynley discovers the body. First
investigations indicate that Trehair is hiding something, but is she
guilty of murder?
There is no getting away from the fact that this is a complex, many
stranded book, with an almost bewildering cast of characters, and an array
of sub-plots, some of which turn out to have little to do with the main
murder investigation. But what most of the sub-plots do have in common
with the main story are the themes of loss, the love of parents for their
children, the need for children to break away eventually, and what makes a
The length of the book comes directly from George's exploration of these
themes in sub-plots that are really stories on their own. Many of the
reviews that I have seen have criticised its length, even said that George
is attempting to take her writing to the level of literature, as if that
was a bad thing. In reality she couldn't have done what she has done in
This case is part of the rehabilitation process for Thomas Lynley. Helen
is only three months dead, and with her died his unborn child. He has been
unable to imagine a meaningful life without her, and in CARELESS IN RED,
you can see meaning being re-born.
I am very much taken with the character of Bea Hannaford and would like to
see more of her in a future book. Her marriage to the Assistant Chief
Commissioner has been in limbo for 14 years and an exploration of the
causes of this and its effect on her life is one of the enjoyable
sub-plots in CARELESS IN READ. I couldn't help comparing her to Helen
Tursten's Irene Huss, Aline Templeton's Marjorie Fleming, and Cath
Staincliffe's Janine Lewis.
So, even though this took me a long time to get through, it was a quality
read. I kept thinking, "I must remember to mention that in my review,"
when I read one thing or another. And of course I haven't mentioned
everything. How could I and not spoil the experience for you? But if you
find it long reading like I did, I'd like to tell you that I found the
final seventy pages totally gripping.
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