A Suitable Vengeance by Elizabeth George: C+

From the back cover:
Award-winning author Elizabeth George gives us an early glimpse into the lives of Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley, forensic scientist Simon Allcourt-St. James, and Lady Helen Clyde in a superlative mystery that is also a fascinating inquiry into the crimes of the heart. Lynley, the eighth earl of Asherton, has brought to Howenstow, his family home, the young woman he has asked to be his bride. But the savage murder of a local journalist is the catalyst for a lethal series of events that shatters the calm of a picturesque Cornwall village and embroils Lynley and St. James in a case far outside their jurisdiction—and a little too close to home. When a second death follows closely on the heels of the first, Lynley finds he can’t help taking the investigation personally—because the evidence points to a killer within his own family.

It took me ages to finish this. Well, okay, more like a month.

The chief problem with it was this: the first third or so was entirely comprised of relationship angst. Not only that, it was flashback relationship angst, so the outcome was already known to anybody who’s been reading the Lynley books in publication order. There was some family angst, as well, since Lynley had issues with both his brother and mother. The most frustrating part was that most concerned preferred to ignore obvious problems or feelings. This resulted in a pretty boring story at the start, and I was clamoring for someone to get murdered already!

Once someone finally died, the book improved though the angst never quite subsided. The case focused on a journalist from the village nearest Howenstow, and whether his death was related to personal quirk, some fairly hefty misdeeds, or a story someone wanted to suppress. It wasn’t the most fascinating investigation I’ve ever read (I figured out the victim’s Big Secret on page 230 and had to wait sixty-eight pages for the characters to catch up with me), but the end result was a surprise and I liked seeing so much of the action from the perspective of Simon St. James, Lynley’s friend and a forensic expert in his own right. There was one detail about the solution that bothered me, though. Here are some paraphrased quotes:

Lynley: What about the condition of the room and the missing money?
Suspect: I don’t know. Maybe Red Herring took it.

A few minutes later…

Simon: Lynley, who’d you tell about the money?
Lynley: A few people. Why?
Simon: But not Suspect?
Lynley: No.
Simon: … Then how did Suspect know?! (dun dun dunnn…)

Me: Um, because y’all basically just told him?

Enduring all of the angst paid off towards the end, when people finally started saying what they had needed to say to each other for years. Though it was kind of cheesy, I actually really loved the scene where Lynley forced himself to watch as his fianceé freaked over Simon’s supposed death and then clung to him once he revealed himself to be alive. I think I’m a sucker for the tortured, self-loathing type.

So, yes, definitely not my favorite of the Lynley/Havers mysteries so far (I despaired of the latter’s absence, but she actually did make a brief appearance), but tolerable once the investigation got going. It wasn’t so awful that I’m discouraged from reading the rest of the series.

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