Monday, July 12, 2010

Careless in Red

Careless in Red opens with the still-grieving Thomas Lynley making his way along the coast of Cornwall on foot. Lynley has been walking so long, in fact, that he could more easily pass for a vagrant or homeless person than he could for the highly respected Detective Superintendent of New Scotland Yard he used to be. Since Lynley wants no part of New Scotland Yard, or anything else regarding his former life, he prefers it that way. But, as luck would have it, he stumbles upon the body of a teenage boy who has apparently fallen from the cliff below which Lynley is walking. When it becomes clear that this is a case of murder, rather than accident, Lynley will find himself one of the early suspects in the investigation.

Detective Inspector Bea Hannaford has a murder to solve but she does not feel that she has been given the proper tools to solve the case. The local policemen assigned to help her on the case do not impress her at all, so she is determined to make the most of having a former star of New Scotland Yard on the case. Hannaford refuses to let Lynley leave the area and convinces him that, since he is there anyway, he may as well give her some help. Hannaford, though, gets more than she bargained by forcibly recruiting Thomas Lynley into the investigation and she soon realizes that he will, indeed, help investigate the murder - but only on his own terms.

Elizabeth George writes big books and this is another whopper, coming in at 623 pages. It is filled with complex side plots and back stories involving a wide array of characters all the way from a grandfather trying to raise his overly religious granddaughter to a Greek expatriate sleeping her way through Cornwall’s men (married or not, young or old) at an astonishing pace. Some of the side plots and much of the back story involve the murdered boy, Santo Kerne, a young man who had more than his share of enemies for someone so young. While some might see the multiple characters and stories as a distraction, fans of George will revel in the way she gets so deeply into the lives of such different people and will be impressed with the way she tidies everything up by the book’s end.

Longtime fans of the series are, however, likely to be somewhat disappointed that Thomas Lynley is little more than a side character in Careless in Red or that Barbara Havers does not even appear in the story until about its mid-point. Havers, though, is Havers and when she does show up, Lynley’s character seems to change for the better and the whole pace of the book seems to sharpen.

Note that the unabridged audio book version of Careless in Red is some 18 CDs in length and that total listening time is something close to 20 hours in total. This is quite a challenge unless one has an extremely long commute or, as I did, brings the book along on a road trip. Narrator John Lee, who does an excellent job on the recording, is consistent throughout and does a remarkable job on a variety of British accents.

Fans of the series will appreciate this one; newcomers, perhaps not as much. The good news is that Thomas Lynley is recovering from the tragedy he suffered in With No One as Witness and that he should be more his old self in the next book in the series.

Rated at: 4.0


  1. I, both, listened to and read this novel, alternating depending if I was in the car or not.
    I did enjoy the narration. A good narrator defintely makes or breaks the story.
    Although the story was not one of my favorites, it was, as always... very well-written and plotted. She is a master at character development.
    I have the latest, This Body of Death, in my TBR pile and am looking forward to starting it soon.

  2. I don't have the new one yet, Kathy, and have heard very little about it so far. I'm hoping it's a return to London or at least to a crime scene that involves more of the characters from the previous books.

    I tend to hold on to an Elizabeth George novel for a while before reading it...nice to know its there waiting on me at my pleasure. I bought Careless in Red the week in was published but held off reading it until I knew another one in the series was available...must be nuts.

  3. "I tend to hold on to an Elizabeth George novel for a while before reading it...nice to know its there waiting on me at my pleasure. I bought Careless in Red the week in was published but held off reading it until I knew another one in the series was available...must be nuts."

    Not nuts at all! I used to do that all the time :D
    From what I've read about the new one... it's a return to the "old"... just the way we like it.

  4. I did the same--bought it when it was released but had planned on reading it right away. I think I was put off by the many tepid responses, but I liked it much more than I thought. It is a bit long, but she always ties things together nicely. I will be happy, though, too, if things get back to normal with the next book, which I have and hope to read sooner than I did Careless in Red. By the way I had it in cloth and since I was walking to work and dragging it with me--and it is a heavy book--I ended up buying the mass market paperback as it made life much easier. It is nice to know you have one of her books on hand for later. I've been thinking I wouldn't mind going back to the beginning and starting all over again.

  5. I didn't care for this book at all, but in George's latest -- This Body of Death -- she is back up to par.

  6. Thanks for grading me as more normal than nuts, Kathy. :-)

  7. Danielle, the longer I held off reading this one, the more criticism I saw everywhere. It did sort of put me off the book for a while, I suppose, but that was more an unconscious response on my part than anything else, I think. I enjoy books that are big on character development, the more the better, and this one certainly fits the bill. Too, I always enjoy getting a close look at life in the U.K., even after having lived in London for several years. Georges' books often describe parts of the country I've been to and wondered about, so I always have that added element of fun with them. But, all that said, I'm ready for the return of the rest of the cast now.

  8. Syndi, I'm glad to hear that. It's almost as if George herself had to do some grieving over the death of one of her main characters and that she is ready to get on with life now.