Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George

First Line: It was a solecism of the very worst kind.

A horrific murder has taken place in the small village of Keldale, in Yorkshire. Everyone who knows plain, fat, quiet Roberta Teys simply cannot believe that she took an ax to her father-- even though she's confessed. Local law enforcement needs help, so Scotland Yard sends Inspector Thomas Lynley (the eighth earl of Asherton) and Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers (most decidedly of the working class). As the mismatched pair begin to investigate, they uncover a series of scandals and crimes that are going to have repercussions, not only amongst the villagers of Keldale, but in their own lives as well.

I've watched a few episodes of "The Inspector Lynley Mysteries" produced by the BBC, and I knew that I'd have to get my hands on the books they were based on sooner or later. I'm glad I finally made the effort.

Back in the 1980s when this book was first published, I think the subject matter behind the murder was much more "new" and shocking than it is today. Perhaps that's a sad statement on today, but it did have an effect on how I felt about the story line surrounding the plot. I easily picked up on behavioral clues and the like, so I wasn't surprised. I also wasn't disappointed for two reasons: one, this story line is extremely well done, and two, there's much more to A Great Deliverance than the crime.

What wowed me about this book were the two main characters. A fellow police officer at Scotland Yard describes Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers as "a truculent pigheaded little bitch" (which is pretty close to the mark), and Havers herself describes new partner Lynley as "that sodding little fop." Havers can't seem to work with anyone. She's on the verge of being tossed out on her ear. Whatever gave her superior the idea that this stubby, combatant woman would work well with sauve, aristocratic, well-dressed Inspector Thomas Lynley was either a stroke of genius... or blind, staggering luck.

They don't work all that well together in this first book, but the glimmer is there. In any other book, handsome Inspector Lynley would be the star, and with his background and his history of relationships, he is an incredibly interesting man about whom I want to learn much more. However, Lynley is not the star of A Great Deliverance. That honor goes to a woman who's close to becoming unhinged-- plain, ill-dressed, rude, and belligerent Barbara Havers steals the show, and her story has the power to put readers through an emotional roller coaster ride.

After being drawn so deeply into this story and into the lives of these two marvelous characters, I can't wait to see how the series progresses. Once again, books win over film!

A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George
ISBN: 9780553278026
Bantam Books © 1989
Mass Market Paperback, 308 pages

Police Procedural, #1 Inspector Lynley mystery
Rating: A+
Source: Paperback Swap 



  1. Cathy - I really very much like the character of Barbara Havers. As the series goes on, she develops and evolves, but even in this first novel you can see that she's in her way a force to be reckoned with. I'm glad you liked this one as much as you did.

    1. It was evidently one of those times when I read the right book at the right time. I was *very* impressed with Havers and look forward to seeing how she evolves through the series.

  2. I haven't read this series because, oh well, there's just too much to read -- and these books are long.

    However, I've seen several of the PBS/BBC TV episodes. Nathaniel Parker (be still my heart) plays Inspector Lynley and the fabulous Sharon Small plays Barbara Haver. Excellently done. He is aristocratic, she working class; it works. They verbally joust, but solve crimes.

    1. Yes, I have seen that the longer the series continues, the longer the books become. I'm rather wary of that actually. And you're right-- this combination is so unlikely, and it works. I really appreciated reading the beginnings of the team I've watched on television.


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