Inspector Lynley

Picking up a new entry in the Inspector Thomas Lynley series is like revisiting an old friend — in fact, a whole coterie of old friends, with all their quirks and characteristics intact. In Just One Evil Act, the eighteenth novel in the series, Elizabeth George affords us a long yet none too leisurely visit with Lynley, but even more so with his long-lasting partner in crime investigation, Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers.

Havers is a piece of work. With a body shaped like a barrel, and a wardrobe that any self-respecting Salvation Army store would be likely to reject out of hand, Havers is anything but a typical police officer. She also swears freely and routinely disregards orders — not just those from Lynley, who has proven to be endlessly forgiving, but from Lynley’s boss, Detective Superintendent Isabelle Ardery, who is decidedly less so.

Havers’ life revolves around her job with Lynley and, in any time that’s left over from work, a bright and charming nine-year-old girl named Hadiyyah Azhar, who lives with her father in an adjoining house. Now Hadiyyah has been spirited off by her mother to a place unknown, and Barbara is as frantic as the little girl’s father. Disregard for procedure leads to insubordination and ultimately to outright rebellion as Barbara enters upon a search for the girl that takes Lynley and later her to Lucca, a picture-book medieval town in Tuscany in northern Italy. Along the way she finds herself figuratively in bed with an unscrupulous tabloid reporter (is there any other kind?), an English private detective with the morals of a fruit fly, and a brilliant Italian police inspector.

Just One Evil Act (Inspector Lynley #18) by Elizabeth George (2013) 919 pages ★★★★☆

Elizabeth George, who is after all a Texan and not English, does a terrific job conveying the way of life at New Scotland Yard. She appears to put on an equally creditable performance in showing how the very quirky Italian justice system works. But she uses Italian rather more freely than an English-speaker with no knowledge of Romance languages might like. My Spanish helped me some, but I found a lot of the dialogue in Italy just as confusing as it was for Barbara Havers.

Just One Evil Act isn’t the very best of George’s Inspector Lynley novels, but it’s a worthy addition to the series. The characters behave in believable ways, lending depth to what we’ve previously known about them, and the suspense holds until the end. It’s a good, solid read.

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