More, he didn’t have the taste or the talent for either [communication or intuitive deduction}. And the further he waded into the growing mire of conjecture, the more frustrated he felt.” (Ch.18, p.269)
For someone who is new to the Inspector Thomas Lynley series and knows nothing about the background, A Suitable Vengeance fills that gap. It goes way back to when Lynley was single, before he married Helen, and was dating Deborah Cotter. The eighth earl of Asherton brings his fiancee Deborah Cotter to Cornwall to meet his widowed mother. Accompanying them are Lynley’s best friend, forensic scientist Simon St. James; St. James’s sister Sidney; her boyfriend Justin Brooke; Lady Helen Clyde; and Deborah’s father, St. James’s valet.
The weekend turns badly awry when the local newspaper editor, Mick Cambrey, was found dead in his cottage—hit in the head and castrated. The cottage rummaged and money taken, evidence points to murder-robbery; but soon it is revealed that Cambrey lived a double life. On the pretext of funneling money to update the newspaper agency, he has been operating a medical fraud trifecta of lies, deceit, and greed.
But due to the ingrown relationships, which seem somewhat contrived and overwrought, especially the love-triangle between Lynley, his betrothed, and St. James, there’s a lot of background prose to trudge through before the first hint of foul actually takes place, on p.120. When a second death follows closely on the heels of the first, Lynley finds he cannot help taking the investigation personally—because the evidence points to a killer within his own family.
George drip-feeds information and red herrings to keep readers’ suspension wavering. Her characters, all enmeshed in personal pain, are fleshed out. The resolution of the accumulating murders involves a different type of illegal drugs and centers around the dubious activities of a young London woman whose dubious identity surprises everyone. The mystery is tight and George handles the evidence and supposition with a deft hand, but I would appreciate if she downplays the love entanglement somewhat. That all said, I do find reconciliation and understanding between Lynley and his estranged mother very moving.
449 pp. Bantam. Pocket Paper. [Read|Skim|Toss] [Buy|Borrow]