Monday, July 15, 2019

The Punishment She Deserves - Elizabeth George

Last year’s The Punishment She Deserves is the twentieth detective novel in Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley series, and the first addition to the series since 2015’s A Banquet of Consequences. Fans of the author’s Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers character will be pleased to learn that the novel is as much, actually much more, about Havers as it is about her boss Thomas Lynley.  Lynley, in fact, does not make a “live” appearance in the book until approximately page 200 of the 690-page novel. Prior to that point, he is either referenced to by other characters, or perhaps consulted from afar.

Barbara Havers has never gone exactly by the book when it comes to homicide investigations, an attribute that Lynley sees considerable value in if only he can keep her from being fired or transferred to the boonies because others in New Scotland Yard do not share his appreciation of Barbara’s methods.  But now it seems that Barbara is on the brink of having precisely one of those two things happen to her because she has been assigned, along with a superior officer who wants little more than to rid herself of Barbara’s presence, to a tricky investigation in the sleepy little town of Ludlow.  Just the two of them – and DCS Isabelle Ardery is hoping that if she gives Barbara enough rope, she will hang herself with it.

It seems that the church deacon, Ian Druitt, has been found dead while in police custody. Due to the circumstances of the man’s death, the police are of course anxious to have the local coroner’s characterization of the death as a suicide confirmed by the investigators from New Scotland Yard.  And Isabelle Ardery, who has personal problems aplenty of her own at the moment, is inclined to humor them – if only she can reign in Barbara long enough to make suicide appear to be the most likely possibility.  Well, good luck with that.  Barbara, instead, tries to walk the fine line between following orders precisely and letting the investigation lead her anywhere and everywhere it might. That’s not usually where DCS Ardery would like her to be.

Author Elizabeth George
The Punishment She Deserves is very much a police procedural, and it is fun to watch the wheels turn in the minds of Lynley and Havers as one small clue leads to another and another until some big piece of the puzzle finally falls into place.  The last few Lynley novels have seen the Havers character evolve into one of the better investigators in all of New Scotland Yard, and she more than holds her own when teamed up with Lynley in this one.  Despite still being as socially inept as she always has been, Havers and Lynley have by now managed a solid bond both on and off the job.  Lynley is probably Barbara’s best friend in the world, and the protective Lynley considers her a good friend, also.  When Lynley and Barbara are sent back to Ludlow to finish up the investigation into Druitt’s death, things finally begin to happen.

Bottom Line: The Punishment She Deserves will probably be more satisfying to long term fans of the series than it will be to those reading it as a standalone.  This is particularly true because of how adeptly the novel further evolves the Havers character into a truly impressive New Scotland Yard investigator. This is not so true of the Lynley character, however. Thomas Lynley reached a low point in his personal life several books back, and the character has changed very little since he stabilized and returned to the job. At 690 pages, the novel has somewhat of a bloated feel to it, but the same can be said for the last few Lynley novels (think Stephen King).  That said, I’m still a huge fan of the series and will most certainly buy the next one to see what’s going on in the lives of two of my favorite fictional characters. I just hope I don’t have to wait three years this time.

Book Number 3,416


  1. I haven't read an Elizabeth George in several years, but Barbara Havers is my favorite character. Time to catch up with all that I've missed!

    1. I'm really pleased with how George has developed her Havers character. She has neglected almost all the others except for Lynley and Havers, and I'm starting to think that Barbara is going to get her own series someday. She's starting to dominate this one.

  2. It really has 690 pages? I'm not sure I'm up for something that long.

    1. It is. Well, actually, it's officially something like 710 pages but the numbered pages total 690. The books in this series have gotten progressively longer over the years.