Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Exploring Elizabeth George by first visiting This Body of Death

One of my new blogger friends,Greg Zimmerman at his New Dork Review of Books blog,had a post recently that brought up a subject near and dear to most every Constant Reader's heart;that "One Book" you meant to read but didn't. The literary equivalent of the perfect catch that slipped away from the fisherman's hook or net.

While many of the commenters(including myself)listed titles that eluded us which would fill up an English Lit course nicely,there were a few contemporary books that made it in there. For me,the gap between those two sides of the reading coin cut very close indeed and on the neglected contemporary front,one of the authors I most regret overlooking is mystery writer Elizabeth George.

I plan on remedying that with reading her latest Inspector Lynley novel,This Body of Death that is due out by April 20th. Despite the fact that her Lynley mysteries take place in England,George is an American writer who developed a love of all things Brit in her youth and made that her creative source of inspiration in her writing.

The Inspector Lynley series is her most popular,especially since at the core of the novels is the emotional connection between upper class Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers,his partner who has a working class background.

Lynley and Havers have one of those "will they or won't they" partnerships that have the joy of watching two seemingly well matched people who ,for one reason or another,can not make a love match. Social position and gender roles play a powerful part in dividing these two from each other in more ways than one:

To further complicate things,Lynley was married to a lady he truly loved,Helen who was murdered in front of him and Havers a few books ago and whose loss he is still grieving as This Body of Death begins.

Lynley is asked to come back from compassionate leave to head up an investigation into the stabbing death of a woman found in a London cemetery. Not only does he have to deal with a new boss who skillfully manages to rub everyone the wrong way,Havers has been reassigned(along with fellow former colleague Winston Nkata)to follow up on a lead to the case outside of London,which makes one than one person involved here vulnerable to the dark secrets behind the murder.

This isn't the first book where Lynley has had to go it alone. The novel prior to this one,Careless in Red,threw a mysterious death into his path while struggling with his wife's demise as he retreated to Cornwall.

It may be odd to start a mystery series that features a strong partnership with a book that has the key couple in question forced apart,but as the author herself puts it,this does give both her and the reader a prime opportunity to develop the characters apart from each other and flesh them out even more. I could go back to the beginning of it all,but it may be truly refreshing to work my way backwards and see Lynley evolve in reverse:

A simpler way for me to catch up on what I've missed is renting the BBC/PBS Mystery movies that were made from the earlier books,ending with "Know Thine Enemy"(an original story based on the characters)in 2008. Fans of the series on either side of the Atlantic clamored for their continuation but to no avail.

What does interest me in Elizabeth George's books is her poised style of story telling and the generous word of mouth that those devoted to her works whether in print or on film have given her. I'd also like to be able to see for myself if there really is a real thread of romance between Lynley and Havers(a highly debated topic),the ultimate mystery of them all. No matter how it turns out,this should be a fun literary journey to embark and with any luck,to see it through to the hopefully bittersweet end:

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