Lately, it seems I have only been reading books that are a part of a series. Not that I am complaining, but usually for me the problem arises when the whole series seems to coalesce into one single story. The result is that though I will remember the story pretty well, always assuming that the writing and the story is worth remembering, I completely forget the individual titles of the books. When I went for my interview a few days ago, they asked me to write about the book I have just read and my thoughts on the same. Imagine my mortification when I realised that I had completely forgotten the names of the books I read. And though an intelligent person would have gone back in his/her mind and dragged up a book read long ago, me being the stubborn person that I am, I decided to go ahead and write about Inspector Lynley and Co. as a whole. I got the job, so I guess they didn’t really mind the absence of the title of a book in place of the name of the entire series.
N.B. The worst has happened! The words were flowing, I was in my element, and ended up writing a 800-word article in something like thirty minutes and then instead of ‘save’ , I hit ‘undo’!! Its all gone and try as I might I can’t remember anything except bits and pieces. I am throwing a mental, artistic tantrum right now! Whatever follows, my second feeble attempt will just never be as good as the first one. Suffer along folks!
So, lets begin at the beginning. Inspector Lynley is a Scotland Yard detective and also a peer of the realm. He never really seems like a happy person to me and I can’t help thinking that it is probably because at heart he is still an aristocrat and thus tends to feel persecuted by the common folks he works with and with things in life that don’t occur precisely as he wants them to. Even when he falls in love, it seems he is more in love with the idea than with the person herself. I found it a little weird that all his closed set of closest friends have slept with each other at some point in time. Isn’t that such a potentially explosive situation; imagine- a cold winter night, a fight with a spouse, running away to a close friend for comfort, a few glasses of wine, some tears and what follows with be the inevitable ‘nobody’s fault’ scenario. I have often wondered why authors tend to make their characters such brooding, temperamental, depressive and sometimes downright mean human beings when they have the power to mould them into the exact shape they want, which is not even possible with the humans they produce from their own flesh and blood, and make them lovable, kind and large hearted instead of imbibing them with all petty qualities like inflated ego’s, persecution complexes and an inability to be thankful for what you have . But I guess, that is the pain of being a true artist.
The other main character is DS Barbara Havers, who is someone I have wanted to strangle innumerable times but still tend to like. She is a foul-mouthed person and an abrasive personality to boot. She feels threatened by every one more privileged than herself and that tends to color her language and attitude towards them. She also looks after her ailing and almost psychotic parents, sharing a filthy house with them in a poor neighborhood and even though at times she wants to run away from it all and refuses to get practical help for them, one has to admire her tenacity and surprising kindness in dealing with them. She looks like a frump and dresses like one too. Her personality is definitively something which is a result of being a single long term caregiver to two dependent adults and yet, I know I would not have had the patience to deal with her belligerence. However, there is no denying that she is intelligent and extremely quick on the uptake, with an annoyingly accurate ‘gut-feeling’. The number of times she turns out to be correct in the series is astonishing. When we meet Barbara, she has alienated the entire department, running through every partner assigned to her and is being finally paired with Lynley as a last chance to prove herself.
An honorable mention must be made here about Superintendent Webberly who brings together Lynley and Barbara. I think he showed an incredible reading into people’s psych’s which shows great administrative skills and I have always admired people with good people skills.To say that neither of them is happy, would be a huge understatement. And yet, I must say this about the author, she allows Lynley the wisdom to give repeated second chances to Barbara, which is something she desperately needs.
And thus begins the story.
According to the Goodreads blurb
Now into Keldale’s pastoral web of old houses and older secrets comes Scotland Yard Inspector Thomas Lynley, the eighth earl of Asherton. Along with the redoubtable Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers, Lynley has been sent to solve a savage murder that has stunned the peaceful countryside. For fat, unlovely Roberta Teys has been found in her best dress, an axe in her lap, seated in the old stone barn beside her father’s headless corpse. Her first and last words were “I did it. And I’m not sorry.”
Yet as Lynley and Havers wind their way through Keldale’s dark labyrinth of secret scandals and appalling crimes, they uncover a shattering series of revelations that will reverberate through this tranquil English valley—and in their own lives as well.
The murder mystery itself, is complex and interesting but with a lot of evidence going to and fro, it is even confusing at some points. But then I suppose real detection is never as easy as Sherlock Holmes would have us believe. The story is interwoven into the interactions between the primary characters and their lives. The author also takes the time to give clear and perfect story-lines to all her secondary characters, so that one feels like one is reading several stories at the same time. I call the protagonists of the murder itself secondary, because that is what they appeared to me. The murder mystery is simply a moving background to the lives of the primary characters. Somewhere during the grim meanderings of detection of this book, one can feel the direction in which the story is progressing, but still at no point did I want to keep the book down unfinished.