“But the fact remains that when someone lies in the middle of a murder investigation, that’s what the cops look at.” (Ch.18, p.520)
Careless in Red opens with Thomas Lynley, in his depression over his wife and unborn child’s death, has gone on a very long walk on the British coast, trying to get away from places and things that remind him of Helen. On the forty-third day of his walk, in Cornwall, disheveled and shabby, he discovers the body of Santo Kerne on the rocks, apparently killed while cliff-climbing. In trying to make report to local police, he involves Dr. Daidre Trihair who owns a cottage nearby at Poulcare Cove.
The boy is the son of a man who had himself been at least tangentially involved in a cave-drowning death a number of years ago. The 18-year-old Santo has been a ladies’ man who sleeps with any woman come his way. He seems to have taken after his mom, a manic tart his father always has to keep his eyes on. Given the family’s extensive social network and Santo’s many partners, George introduces a tapestry of colorful suspects, all of whom has a very good motive for bumping off Santo Kerne. His girlfriend, Madlyn Angerrick, who gives up training for the Olypics, finds out that Santo has been double-dealing her with other women—older women, and cuts all ties. Having a motive to revenge on his cruel infidelity, Madlyn is not above suspicion. Nor is the doctor who is very careful with what she reveals about herself. Santo was reportedly seen in her cottage but she denies knowing him. Santo’s father is also ravaged by guilt because he couldn’t accept the boy for who he was and their last conversation ended in a row.
While the mystery itself is absorbing, it’s the psychological aspects of the novel that make it compelling. George does not write a cookie-cutter whodunit but takes time to develop her characters and get inside their lives. They are more than just suspects. While each has a myriad of reasons to commit the crime, each is embroiled in the respective family drama. Several family sagas are played out, incorporating the intergenerational conflict that binds individual members to each other and intertwines them. The result is a book so rich in content and interpersonal drama that one forgets it’s a mystery. Even the false leads would add to the background of the story. Garnished with a couple twists, the conclusion is a surprise but doesn’t stretch the credibility. The book is a feast of friendships, relationship, family, estrangement between parents and children, and emotional intrigues.
868 pp. Harper Fiction. Pocket Paper. [Read|Skim|Toss] [Buy|Borrow]