Elizabeth George’s latest is much more than a whodunit

whodunit: A Banquet of Consequences by Elizabeth George

On a superficial level, A Banquet of Consequences is a simple whodunit. Inspector Thomas Lynley and his brilliant but exasperating sidekick, Sergeant Barbara Havers, must identify the murderer among several suspects. But the novel is anything but superficial. Author Elizabeth George, who earned a graduate degree in counseling and psychology and is a former teacher, has instead written a penetrating tale about relationships that sometimes defy simple logic — between husband and wife, mother and children, father and sons, and seemingly every other possible combination of human beings. It’s a fascinating tale that transcends the limitations of the conventional detective novel and explores the varieties of human experience in 21st-century Britain.


A Banquet of Consequences (Inspector Lynley #19) by Elizabeth George (2015) 577 pages @@@@@ (5 out of 5)


As Lynley opines in the story, “I find that people aren’t all one thing. One rather wishes they were for simplicity’s sake, but isn’t the truth that people are good and bad, simple and complicated, happy and sad, frightened and courageous? It’s all a mix. We learn to take in everything about a person as disparate parts to the whole, and it’s the whole that we love, even at moments when the other isn’t who we wish her to be.” That insight is well illustrated in this intelligently written novel.

A murder mystery? Yes. Whodunit? Yes. But more.

In A Banquet of Consequences, the 19th installment in the Inspector Lynley series, the mystery swirls around the Goldacre family: Francis, Caroline, their two sons, William (Will) and Charlie, and the two daughters-in-law. The central event that triggers the action unfolding in the novel is Will’s suicide. The murders that follow — this book is, of course, a murder mystery — embroil Inspector Lynley and Sergeant Havers of New Scotland Yard in the lives of the famous feminist author who employs Caroline as her assistant, the author’s publisher, and the current spouses of the four Goldacres. While working the murder case that comes to light early in the story, Lynley and Havers wrestle with their own demons: Lynley is still reeling over the death of his wife, Helen, seventeen months previously, and Havers is struggling to escape from the straight-jacket of rules imposed on her by Lynley’s boss, who has gained a poisonous dislike of the younger woman.

About the author

Elizabeth George long ago established herself as one of the world’s most accomplished writers of detective fiction. Born in Ohio, she was educated in California and lives there now. Though her biography doesn’t mention it, she clearly spends a good deal of time in the UK. To understand this, all you have to do is note the peculiarly British vocabulary that leaps out of the pages in the dialogue among her characters: knickers, dogsbody, kip, cow, kit, and gash are just a few examples. If you can translate these terms into common American English, go to the head of the class. I’ve learned what they mean, but I would be hard-pressed to work them into intelligible dialogue.

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