Payment in Blood by Elizabeth George: A

From the back cover:
The career of playwright Joy Sinclair comes to an abrupt end on an isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands when someone drives an eighteen-inch dirk through her neck. Called upon to investigate the case in a country where they have virtually no authority, aristocratic Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley and his partner, Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers, grapple for both a motive and a murderer.

Emotions run deep in this highly charged drama, for the list of suspects soon includes Britain’s foremost actress, its most successful theatrical producer, and the woman Lynley loves. He and Havers must tread carefully through the complicated terrain of human relationships, while they work to solve a case rooted in the darkest corners of the past and the unexplored regions of the human heart.

Although I thought the mystery here was better than in the first novel in the series, I still found it to be less interesting than the developing relationship between Lynley and Havers. Payment in Blood was set fifteen months after the events in the first book, and found Lynley and Havers still working together, but not on the same page regarding the partnership. Lynley, in fact, shuddered at the idea of its being permanent, while Havers soon demonstrated that, though he irritated her immensely, she felt a great deal of loyalty to him and would fight to protect him.

I wondered that Lynley did not recuse himself from this case when he found that one of his close friends (he didn’t realize yet that he loved her) was technically a suspect, but the tense conversations he and Helen shared were so riveting that I didn’t mind very much. The resultant jealousy Lynley experienced on finding her there with another man led him to twist facts to suit his conviction that her lover was the murderer. Feeling her superior to be on the wrong track, and desirous of protecting his job and reputation, Havers began her own secret investigation into other areas of the mystery, and eventually Lynley’s friends arrayed against him to confront him about the single-mindedness of his pursuit. All of this was excellent.

The mystery itself was pretty good and featured a more defined cast of suspects than the previous book. The conclusion was exciting, surprising, and emotionally satisfying. And really—who could ask for more than that?

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