George Drops Ball in New Mystery

Article excerpt

For 400 pages, Elizabeth George shows she's a master juggler when it comes to crime writing. Unfortunately, her new book is more than 600 pages.

And in the last 200 pages of "Believing the Lie," most of the balls she was juggling so adeptly land with a thud - partly as a result of George's attempt to show she's more than a mystery writer, partly because she lets the individual stories get away from her.

It's a shame, because the Inspector Lynley series is one of the better ongoing detective series, bolstered by the smartly produced TV series seen on "Masterpiece Mystery" before the BBC unwisely pulled the plug. One of the oddities of the Lynley books is that they have such a distinctive British flavor - this one is set in the Lake District - though George herself is American. Despite that, her kinship is less with Janet Evanovich or Patricia Cornwell than with Ruth Rendell and Morag Joss.

Like those writers, George seems to be growing restless with the genre. "Believing the Lie," in fact, has much in common with Mike Leigh's great film, "Secrets and Lies," in which almost every character is guilty of hiding something. In "Believing the Lie," the consequences of repressing the truth can be tragic.As the story opens, Lynley is dispatched to Cumbria for an undercover investigation into whether a mucketymuck's nephew, Ian Cresswell, accidentally drowned or was killed. Cresswell was living with a closeted Iranian man, and his other family members are all involved in some subterfuge or other. …

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