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WITH NO ONE AS WITNESS
A Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers Novel
By Elizabeth George
Harper Torch, March 2006 ($7.99)
Reviewed by Cherie Jung
Although I have watched several of the PBS Mystery! series episodes featuring the investigative duo of Inspector Lynley and Sgt Havers, this is the first book I've read by Elizabeth George. Don't ask me how I've managed to miss out on reading her books all these years because I can't come up with a reasonable answer. I just never got around to reading them.
When WITH NO ONE AS WITNESS was first published in hardcover, a friend who owns a mystery bookstore asked if I'd read it and wondered how I felt about the ending. Many of her customers were furious at the way the author had dealt with her characters and the traumatic ending. (I'm not going to tell you what the ending is, even though by now, you've probably sussed it out from someone else who's read the book.)
To be honest, I thought the ending was brilliant and it opened up several possibilities for new directions the author and her characters might explore in future books. But I can empathize with those readers who don't like to see anything too harsh happen to their favorite characters. Still, I give kudos to the author for taking such an exciting gamble with her characters and her many fans.
Once I started reading WITH NO ONE AS WITNESS I could hardly put it down. It was truly a "page-turner." Trouble is, there were so many pages to turn! Somewhere along the line, about one third of the book could have been trimmed and I, for one, would not have missed it. As it was, I got half way through the hardcover edition, read the ending, put the book aside and re-read it when it came out in paperback because I couldn't believe I didn't finish it at the first go.
The story involves several boys who have been brutally murdered. Eventually it is thought a serial killer is on the prowl, targeting young, impoverished boys that society seems to neither care about nor keep track of. Scotland Yard doesn't put the details together until a Caucasian victim is discovered. Fearing reprisals from the community for it's apparently rascist bias, the case is dumped in Lynley's lap, so to speak. Police politics being what they are, it is decided that the team needs a token black man in hopes of appeasing the media and the citizens of London. Enter Winston Nkata, black man. He is hastily promoted to detective sereant rank while Havers' position remains tenuous. She may not be around on the force long enough to see the serial killer caught.
I can't deny that it's a good story. It's just way too long. Be prepared to be frustrated by the pacing, but remember, if you stick to it until the very end, you'll see what all the fuss was about when the hardcover hit the shelves last year.
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