It has been interesting, over the course of a series that is now 17 books long, to watch the emotional evolution of the main characters in Elizabeth George's Thomas Lynley mysteries. George's five characters (Tommy, Barbara, Deborah, Simon, and Helen) have grown and evolved in ways that change both their self-perception and the way that they interact and relate to each other. The best thing about George’s approach is that not all of the changes are positive ones. We, the readers, are learning that, whether we like it our not, our old friends are all very human. They have the same problems the rest of us have, and they cope with those problems, not always successfully, pretty much as we would do it.
It's been rough sledding for the good guys lately, especially for Tommy Lynley whose personal life has been ripped apart. Lynley has yet to recover fully from the personal tragedy that almost caused him to drink himself to death, but he is back on the job now and seems to be functioning adequately. At the same time, Deborah and Simon are finding it difficult to deal with their inability to conceive a child and, for perhaps the first time, the strength of their marriage is being tested. Barbara is still very much the Barbara fans love (God bless her), and she is finally starting to come to terms with who she is.
This time around, as a personal favor to Bernard Fairclough, a wealthy man with influential friends in Scotland Yard, Thomas Lynley is sent to the Lake District to investigate a drowning that has been ruled accidental by the local coroner. Fairclough wants to make certain that the death really was an accident so it is up to Thomas to find the truth. The kicker is that Thomas must conduct his investigation entirely "undercover." Deborah and Simon, welcoming the temporary change of scenery as they struggle with their fertility problem, agree to help Thomas with the undercover snooping.
When the three (with some unofficial assistance from Barbara back in London) open up a Pandora's box of family lies, deceit, and motives, it appears that the mysterious drowning will never be solved – and if it is solved, survival of the Fairclough family is suddenly in doubt.
Believing the Lie is a long, complicated novel, one in which side plots and back-stories are allotted as many pages as the core mystery itself. Admittedly, this style of mystery writing is not for everyone, but longtime readers of Elizabeth George novels appreciate and have come to expect it. A Thomas Lynley novel, especially since they only come around every two years or so, is something to be slowly savored, and this one is no exception.
Note: Those readers whose favorite series character is Barbara Havers (me, among them) can look forward to the next Thomas Lynley novel. Just One Evil Act, scheduled for publication in October 2013, seems to begin where Barbara's story ends in Believing the Lie. Barbara gets a turn.
Bottom Line: Believing the Lie does another beautiful job of evolving the series characters even though their personal flaws are more obvious than ever. This is a nice addition to the Thomas Lynley series.