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The Punishment She Deserves: A Lynley Novel


The Punishment She Deserves: A Lynley Novel

Settled into my comfy reading chair, I opened the latest Elizabeth George novel to join Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers and Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley, my all-time favorite British protagonists. And…rats! It’s that despicable Detective Superintendent Isabelle Ardery who has Barbara on a short leash.

As usual, smack-talking, unconventional Barbara Havers does not stick precisely to the rules to solve a recent murder. Kicking over rocks in search of details that escape others is Barbara’s stock in trade, and more than once in her checkered career, she has embarrassed political higher-ups. Now the top brass in London, egged on by Isabelle, are just looking for a reason to ship her off to the nether regions of Northern England. Isabelle is given two tasks: bring a short and tidy end to what looks like a cut-and-dried suicide, and stitch up Barbara in an infraction --- any infraction will do --- so they can get her out of their hair. The two nemeses are on their way to Ludlow in Shropshire in the West Midlands, with Isabelle pushing Barbara’s buttons at every turn to find a way to get her fired or at least humiliated.

"I felt myself visualizing the scenes as George creates a feast for the imagination through her atmospheric skill.... It’s a hefty but absorbing read of nearly 700 pages."

A highly respected local deacon has committed suicide by hanging himself in his jail cell after being arrested for suspected pedophilia. It turns out that the deacon was the son of a high government official with connections to the local Member of Parliament, which results in a demand for an investigation to clear his name of the disgrace. Barbara and Isabelle are the chosen coppers. Who is to blame for this apparent suicide while the deacon was left alone in the jailhouse? That is their only brief, or at least as Isabelle sees it. Barbara begins to think it looks like murder and burrows into the finer details, but Isabelle, absorbed in her significant personal disasters and enhanced by her progressing alcoholism, wants to put things done and dusted and return to London. Never fear: Isabelle mucks things up enough that Thomas Lynley is finally pulled into the case halfway through the book, and he and Barbara return to find that things are not at all as they seemed.

Few writers can produce an engrossing novel --- with no preaching or finger wagging --- that touches on such wide-reaching contemporary social issues as substance abuse, promiscuity, cultural, religious and generational clashes, and political corruption with the deftness that George creates. It doesn’t hurt that she has established two of the most beloved detectives in modern fiction. The erudite, ever-so-proper Thomas Lynley and East Ender Barbara Havers are two totally opposite personalities who we’ve grown to know like old acquaintances over the course of nearly two decades and 19 bestselling novels. Not to mention the hit BBC series based on the books.

With the advent of cable television creating big-screen series for home viewing, THE PUNISHMENT SHE DESERVES is ripe for starting a bidding war among Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Showtime and HBO. Since the subject matter hinges on substantial sexual misconduct by the randy college students in this small English hamlet, any proper constraints required from the BBC can be lifted. I felt myself visualizing the scenes as George creates a feast for the imagination through her atmospheric skill. We vicariously visit the historic famed Ludlow castle, the medieval fair with its artisans, the pubs, and sailing above the spectacular countryside in --- of all things --- a glider.

It’s a hefty but absorbing read of nearly 700 pages. I will be critical of one thing: I just don’t get the tap dancing. It creates comic relief to imagine Barbara in tap shoes, practicing her routine in a Ludlow B&B for an appearance with her pal, Dorothy, to hoof their way to history in a London dance recital. If you’re familiar with her character, she’s hardly known for her attention to fashion details, but her fellow workers see her as a work in progress. That she is indeed.

Reviewed by Roz Shea on March 29, 2018

The Punishment She Deserves: A Lynley Novel
by Elizabeth George

  • Publication Date: March 19, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books
  • ISBN-10: 0451467868
  • ISBN-13: 9780451467867