21 June 2008

REVIEW: CARELESS IN RED, Elizabeth George

Hatchette Live Australia, 2008, 530 pages
ISBN 0340922974(978-034-092297-2)

As has become my custom, particularly with a book that is taking some time to read, and this one took over 10 days, I wrote a progress report, which I subtitled Will Thomas Lynley please stand up?

Here is a bit of what I wrote there:
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 inbuilt 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 6 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 that 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 marriage.

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 less.

This case is part of the rehabilitation process for Thomas Lynley. Helen is only 3 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 RED. 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 this morning I found the final 70 pages totally gripping.

My rating: 4.8

8 comments:

Sue Waters said...

Hi Kerrie - I think I mentioned previously how I have a similar passion to these books as yourself. Well the other day I read a comment on my blog about an educator who had set up a book review blog for her school as a method of engaging staff in the concept of blogging.

So I checked it out and thought it was a really good way of engaging people. Unfortunately comments require log in so even if I wanted to comment on a review I can't. But it stirred up my passion to want to be able to discuss the books I read with others and it triggered my memory of your blog.

Long story but here I am :)

Any way about this book. WOW. Been waiting for how Elisabeth George tackle bringing Lynley back into the story. Totally agree with your rating of the book -- she has done an excellent job and I couldn't imagine how she could have done it better. Had thought there may be no hope after what happened to Helen but she did it beautifully. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and can't wait for the next story to find out where she takes him next.

raidergirl3 said...

I have had With No One As a Witness on my shelf for two years or so, and it looks so long. I have loved all of these books but find they take a long time to read.

Thanks for this review which might just kick start me into getting back into this series. I always enjoy them when I read them, and now have three on the series.

Violette Severin said...

I have been waiting for someone to review this book. I have read some of George's books and liked most of them. At least now I know what mood I should be in when I pick up this book.

maxine said...

This book came out in the UK a week or two ago, and I've been debating whether to buy in in hardback. I used to buy her books in hardback a while back, as I was so involved in the Deborah plot (highly relevant to me at the time), but as mentioned, I was so disappointed in her last one. So far I have resisted buying the hardback, mainly because I have so many pressing reading committments among the many complimentary books I've been sent and should really review. But I am wavering!

Kerrie said...

I'm glad to see you here Sue. You'll find a number of like-minders in my blog roll. I'm glad you liked my review of this one. You might like to think about oz_mystery_readers as a way of participating in discussions (see the link on the side)

Raidergirl3, Violette, Maxine
This did take me a long time to read - nearly 2 weeks - and I was frustrated by the length of time it took Lynley, and then Havers, to "emerge"
If you click on my link to the review in Library Thing, you'll see, I think, a number of other reviews of the book, and my reading between the lines of them is that the length of the novel took its toll on some reviewers who wanted things to move more quickly and for Lynley to be stronger.
I wasn't totally "gripped" all the time, but lately I've been a bit more philosophical about longer novels and decided that I am meant to savour them. You can't read a Dickens novel in a day either.

Maxine, I read hardly anything in hard back. Here in Oz they make their appearance briefly but the trade paperback is usually hot on their heels.

Something to think about- I realised last night that I hadn't thought much about the title. When the climber fell, Lynley noticed the body because of red clothing I think. Was that where the title came from Sue?

Thanks for your comments folks. I love them.

Sue Waters said...

Sorry for my late response but my comment tracking service stopped tracking comments for awhile. My thoughts are the title "Careless in Red" comes from the fact that the mother used to dress in red when she went on the prowl.

Can you suggest a new author I should try reading similar to Elisabeth George and Reginald Hill? Need a new book to read. Just finished Patricia Cornwell and wish I hadn't bothered.

Kerrie said...

Hello Sue

Have you tried Deborah Crombie?

Kerrie

ravenousreader said...

Wonderful review, Kerrie. I love the way George is able to extrapolate so many different characters and story lines from the central mystery.

I also agree with you about Bea Hannaford. She's a great character, and I'm interested to know what will happen to her and Ray in the future.

Thanks for visiting Bookstack and introducing yourself. I'll be back to see you again :)

LinkWithin

Blog Widget by LinkWithin