Thursday, 14 November 2013

Book Review: Just One Evil Act

Just One Evil Act
by Elizabeth George (2013)

In my review of the previous novel in Elizabeth George’s Lynley/Havers series (Believing the Lie), about a year ago, I expressed a certain frustration both with the separate mystery in that book, and with the background story evolving extremely slowly, with the last five or six novels in the series all taking place in a fictional time span of less than one year (but published over a time period of about 7-8 years).  

With this in mind, and Just One Evil Act again picking up exactly where Believing the Lie left off (still within that year), my expectations weren’t very high. However, I’m glad to say: I found this one to be a real page-turner, and the author back in top form.

I still have certain questions in my mind about the time aspects (vs modern technology, for one thing) but, ignoring that… I think I have to give this one full marks. The story is full of twists and turns. From beginning to end of this novel, as reader you must be prepared to find yourself thrown between conviction and doubt more times than you’ll be able to count.

The relationship developments in the background does not make it easy to write reviews or introductions of the later books without revealing too much to those who might not yet have read the earlier ones (and want to). However: This story focuses more on Barbara Havers than on Thomas Lynley. It involves a kidnapping which turns out more complicated than it first seemed; and as Barbara knows the family, she’s the one to get herself emotionally entangled, at the same time as she is prepared to do just about anything to help. The action takes place partly in London and (for a change) partly in Tuscany in Italy. Besides the London Metropolitan police detectives we already know from previous novels, we are introduced to Italian police and authorities, as well as private detectives and journalists in both countries. Some of them we get to know quite well, which makes me suspect we might come across them again some day (?)

Both private and working relationships are severely tested. Truth and lies are intertwined until it’s hard for anyone, anywhere, to tell what’s really supposed to be what. General communication problems are further enhanced by language difficulties. (But at the same time, some communication succeeds across that barrier.) To begin with I found myself annoyed with what seemed an overuse of Italian without translation in this book. But as the story proceeded, I had to admit this may have served a defendable purpose, by forcing me as reader to share the frustration of some of the characters facing the same problem.

What amazed me most in all of this was that at the same time as the story was complicated, it wasn’t really hard to follow. And for that, kudos to the author! :)

Kudos (from the Ancient Greek: κῦδος) is acclaim or praise for exceptional achievement.


  1. It's been years since I last read an Elizabeth George; I stopped after one of the books that left me just like you described feeling at the beginning of this review. This, now, sounds good; would one need to have read all the books in between in order to understand this one?

  2. I think there are probably enough rear mirror glimpses of the past given in this book to put you roughly in the picture even if you haven't read all of the previous ones in the series, Meike.

    On the other hand: For my own part I now find that I want to go back and reread Careless in Red (three books ago), because of one character from that one now turning up again and seems likely be the next romance in Lynley's life. In the present novel she's just a "hint" in the background though - not involved in the case as such. I just found it tantalising that I didn't really remember her at all - or the plot in that book, except that it had Lynley aimlessly wandering the moors of Cornwall, grieving. I actually missed that book when it was first published; only went back to read it after having read the next one. And then I listened to it as CD audio book borrowed from the library (two years ago), which probably contributes to my memories of it being vague. I'm thinking of maybe getting it on Kindle now... (To try and understand better what Lynley sees in this woman.)

  3. complicated and not hard to follow is a good thing. sometimes i put a book down because i can't follow it.. love your header night shot

    1. I think for me it also matters whether I happen to be in the right mood for the kind of book I'm reading - and in this case, perhaps also that I could find the time to read it without too many distractions. Elizabeth George's books are all very long - this one 721 pages according to Amazon. So it took me a week or so to finish it; but I did not have a lot of other important stuff to process in my mind in between my reading sessions :)

  4. I am always on the lookout for a good read. This sounds great!

  5. I just read the whole series from start to finish one after the other and enjoyed then because the slow development of the background stories didn't matter so much. Barbara is my favourite character. I can't wait for her next one to be published.
    There are the occasional glitches where the editors have let her down by not picking up on Americanisms. (Pavement for road instead of what we British know as the pavement comes to mind as one slip.)

    1. I can imagine the slow background story mattering less if you read the novels all in one sequence. The discrepancy compared to real time might be more of a problem for us who have had to wait 1-2 years between books! Reading all one after another must be considered quite an achievement in itself though, as they are all very long books.
      Americanisms are of course more likely to slip by for me :-) (Especially since I read some of the books in Swedish!!!)


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