sociological speculation: This Body of Death by Elizabeth George

Aristocratic Scotland Yard Inspector Thomas Lynley returns to the land of the living, and the mingled comforts and frustrations of his familiar collaborators, in This Body of Death, the 16th novel in Elizabeth George‘s extended study of Lynley’s life. Still reeling from the senseless murder of his wife, Lady Helen Clyde, Lynley is grasping for meaning in a life gone empty when he enters the tale about one-third of the way into the book. The tale exhibits the author’s fondness for sociological speculation.

Meanwhile, two contrasting story-lines have begun to unfold. One is the tale of the notorious, real-life murder of a toddler by three abused and neglected 10- and 11-year-olds, told in the manner of an official inquiry, its sections interspersed among the chapters that relate the novel’s main plot. The latter begins with the sudden disappearance of a young woman from the isolated rural home of a strange man with whom she has been living for the past two years.

This Body of Death (Inspector Lynley #16) by Elizabeth George ★★★☆☆

Like its 15 predecessors in the Inspector Lynley series, This Body of Death is a tale of murder and of the often halting and confused police investigation that follows it. However, it is also a sensitive, continuing character study of Lynley; of his stubborn and irreverent sidekick, Sergeant Barbara Havers; of his long-time friends, Simon and Deborah St. James; and of the new characters introduced in this book, notably Chief Inspector Isabelle Ardery, who has been brought in to replace Lynley as head of the unit. (Ardery seems destined to reappear in subsequent Inspector Lynley novels.)

In This Body of Death, George indulges again in detailed sociological speculation — as she did most notably in the book about Helen Clyde’s murder, What Came Before He Shot Her. I found that novel to be tough going and ultimately set it aside, unfinished, and I was tempted at times to do so with This Body of Death as well as I found my interest in the book’s main plot lagging because of continued interruptions with page after page of description of the toddler’s abduction and murder and the three boys’ subsequent trial.

For what it’s worth, this was the first book I read on my new iPad — and that part, at least, was sheer pleasure.

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