Love books! Classics and lighter fiction, mysteries (not too violent please :-). And selective non-fiction--whatever takes my fancy.
I've been feeling increasingly disappointed by Elizabeth George's books. It seems as though there was no such thing as a bad Lynley novel "back in the day." But lately, I find myself wondering if someone else is ghost-writing them for her. It feels like whatever held them together in the beginning--some of the chemistry between the characters, and the coherence of the plots--has slipped a little.
That being said--in fairness felt I should be honest--they are still Lynley and Havers--and I've grown to love them so much over the years that even with a little fading of the original charm, they are still good reads (listens). In this one, we get more of a look at Barbara Havers--unmarried and childless, but who has grown very fond of her little neighbor over the course of several books. She learns with genuine anguish first that the child has been kidnapped by her mother, then that she has simply been kidnapped for real. That's a good plot line--and had many possibilities. But gosh, is the book ever long! Was there an editor on the job here? And then, while I enjoy books that have occasional foreign language comments inserted here & there--in this one (for completely baffling reasons) the author has characters speak whole conversations in Italian (with no translation provided). Someone who speaks the language might have really liked that--I don't, and I didn't.
Davina Porter is a wonderful narrator--yet she lacked something in reading this. I imagined that even she didn't know what to do with the book. And, just to be clear--I am saying some things that another reader might want to know about before deciding on purchasing this book. But I still enjoyed it--as it is a (weaker) but still excellent read, due to the fact that the whole series, with the development of characters up till now, carries this book in ways that a stand-alone novel could not have done on it's own.
I hope that Eliz George will be reading the comments of her long & faithful fans, and maybe do some better editing of the next Lynley novel--which even though this one was not quite up to par--I still anticipate with pleasure.
This book belongs in the annals of the "good old days" of Thomas Lynley novels. Obviously, characters and situations change in series--but in reading this book (about the 4th or 5th in the series) I was reminded how very much this series has altered over the years, not always for the best. Many of the main people in the more recent books were never even a part of the early ones. And these are the characters that we originally got to know and love--sadly, they rarely, if ever, appear any more.
That being said, this book opens with Inspector Thomas Lynley (who is actually Lord Asherton) bringing his fiancee to his ancestral home, to celebrate his engagement. Murder presents itself fairly quickly, and Lynley finds himself trying to handle this new challenge.
Present are those whom I consider to be the core characters of the early books--Deborah Cotter & her father, who is the butler for Simon Allcourt-St.James, Helen Clyde--who assists in police investigations (and will become more important in future books) and Lynley's family. This book in particular lays out more of the back story of who Lynley is, how he has come to have some attitudes that show up in other books but with fewer explanations. And frankly, just as a mystery novel, this one is far superior to her more recent selections. I've read every one--am a great fan of the series--but I had forgotten how much more engaging the early ones were.
Somewhere along the line, Elizabeth George decided to go in a different direction with characters and plots. I understand change happens, but I sure do miss these old, original books. Plan to listen to them all for the sheer pleasure of the interaction among this set of people. Just one tiny thing--Davina Porter, who is an exceptionally good narrator, does not seem at her best in this one. I found a few of the voices uncomfortable to listen to--however, not so much that I would lower the stars because of it. She is still a very good reader of this book. Highly recommend!
Rachel Goddard is a veterinarian who has left hectic Northern Virginia after some sort of tragedy (that is not fully spelled out in this book--which is the second in the series). She has relocated herself to rural Virginia where she has opened a veterinary clinic and is trying to rebuild her life. While it is good that the author did not reveal too much about the first book (so as not to spoil it for people who want to go back and read it next)--listening to this one, out of sequence, was only because the first is not available on Audible (don't know why, hope it will be soon).
However, this book works well as a stand-alone. I didn't understand what had taken place before, but it did not get in the way of feeling that this is quite good as it is. It involves a case in which the bones of a Melungeon woman (a mixed race culture that has been in the Virginia/North Carolina area for a very long time) are discovered on a mountain, which re-opens an old cold case. For Deputy Tom Bridger, this is very personal, because his now-deceased father had worked this case before his death. So he feels very invested in solving it.
However, he must find a way to manage age-old racist attitudes towards the Melungeons--which is partly his own heritage--and the suspicion they have of the whites who have always looked down upon them in order to find the killer. As he begins his investigation, he discovers Holly, the young niece of the murdered woman, living in fear--though he isn't totally certain why--and tries to help her escape her situation by bringing her to work in Rachel's animal clinic, and also live with her.
I think the whole book is really quite good. The part about the Melungeons is fascinating--I have known about them for most of my life, and found the mysteries about their background and heritage fascinating. I think that is what attracted me to this book in the first place. However, there were parts that were sort of a stretch for me in the story. While it was necessary for Holly to live with Rachel for the whole thing to play out, it was quite challenging to imagine that Rachel would have been so protective of this young woman when she, herself, appears to have been dealing with her own fears from what happened in the previous book.
However, that aside, the story works well, the characters are vividly portrayed, the development and details of the area and people very interesting. I recommend this as a very good read--and look forward to finding more books by Sandra Parshall. I also liked the narration performed by Tavia Gilbert.