Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Elizabeth George's Careless in Red

Too bad -- I'm falling behind, then playing catch-up, not able to give books the attention they deserve. Still, I'm not making any big claims with this blog, simply trying to keep a record of my reading, and perhaps occasionally have some conversations about books.

My Christmas break indulgence reading this year, for which I prepared well by splurging on a hardcover weeks before ($25+ for a mystery novel -- that's a splurge, when I could have waited for the paperback, I know!), was very satisfying. Elizabeth George's latest, Careless in Red, finally lets her readers see how Thomas Lynley is coping after the shocking death of his pregnant wife at the end of the novel before last. The anatomy of grief which comprises the first chapter or so is impeccable, convincing, sensitive -- Ms. George has either experienced or observed grief close-up or is a very careful researcher. What she does, though, is not just describe a generic grief -- she inflects it to suit Lynley's personality as a tailor might fit him a bespoke suit. Readers who have grown to know the man well instantly recognize that setting off to walk the Cornwall coast alone is precisely what their Inspector Lynley might do.

The rest of the book offers the same level of observant, researched, satisfying and convincing detail -- both of characters and of locale. It's a big book, as George's often are, and between the pleasures of the plot, the curiosities of the many intersecting characters, the delights of traveling a well-sketched terrain, and the happy recognition of old fictional friends (Barbara Havers is here, loyal and stubborn as always), it made for a very relaxed, cozy few winter days. There were a few spots in the last several chapters when I found the narrative voice philosophized through the eyes of a teen in tones a bit too similar to those expressed via an old man, and a few spots when the overall tone seemed to point towards a too-neat tying up. In fact, though, while I won't say more for fear of spoiling the final resolution, the mystery was credibly and satisfyingly resolved, and the minor quibbles I had fade into the background. I'd recommend this -- and I'm sure the paperback will be out fairly soon.


  1. Oh dear, I have been eagerly anticipating this, and yet I missed it. Or have I been dreading it, dreading disappointment and therefore avoiding the knowledge, terrified that the book would be a terrible let-down.

    Now I must go off and find it.

  2. I can't believe I didn't realize you kept a reading blog as well. Goodness--and gladness.


  3. Mardel: I think you'll enjoy it very much -- you'll see what I started to worry about (in retrospect, I wonder if George would have indulged herself teasing her fans a wee bit -- we're all quite possessive of these characters now, aren't we!).
    Puttermeister: So happy to see you here -- I've wondered how you're doing, how teaching's going, research, etc. . . Last term,I taught the Steven Johnson you recommended way back when and it worked very well as an anchor to 1st-year comp.