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George, Elizabeth - 'This Body of Death'
Hardback: 608 pages (Apr. 2010) Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton ISBN: 0340922990

Whilst Inspector Lynley is on compassionate leave from New Scotland Yard, Acting Superintendent Isabelle Ardery is brought into the Met as his temporary replacement. A gruesome recent body is discovered in a Stoke Newington, London cemetery and her team are given the task of discovering who she was and who killed her. As Ardery is on secondment from a Kent Police force she feels a little intimidated with all the new faces on her team and she asks Lynley, whom she met on a previous case, to come back on a temporary basis to assist her as all the team members are intensely loyal to him and will back her if he is there. He reluctantly accepts and returns.

The identity of the murdered woman, Jemima, is soon established and as she originally came from Hampshire, DS Barbara Havers and DS Winston Nkata are sent there to check out her background. They soon discover that the dead girl had a boyfriend in the town there with whom she had lived with for a time, then had abandoned him and gone to live in London. Did he kill her out of revenge?

Soon there are multiple suspects. Acting Superintendent Isabelle Ardery has to report frequently to her domineering Superior, Assistant Commissioner Hillier to keep him up to date with what is happening in the case as the media are very interested. Isabelle unfortunately, has a drinking problem and keeps miniature vodka bottles in her handbag to drink every so often as the stress of her job can get to her.

There is another story mentioned in italics after every other chapter of a type of "Jamie Bulger" killing involving three tear-a-ways who kidnap a little boy from a McDonald's and after walking him miles, take him to a building site and kill him in a most barbaric manner. After some time they are all arrested, questioned and put on trial. The relevance of this fictionalised real life murder to the real fiction of this book should be obvious to her British readership but would not be to her main target audience in the USA where the majority of Elizabeth George's readers live, of course and where she sells the most books. The "Bulger" story and the main story come together near the conclusion.

DS Barbara Havers has some difficulties relating to Ardery, as the new Acting Superintendent wants Barbara to smarten her appearance up and tells her to wear more dignified clothes than her usual olive corduroy trousers with red high top trainers and purple socks! She wants her to look more professional and to stop cutting her own hair!! She also orders her also to have some work done on her teeth. So her endeavours in these regards are recounted in full.

The book was a marvellous read and once started, very difficult to put down until the exciting conclusion is reached. The author has returned to the kind of quality writing which brought her a wide readership and I hope she continues along this path. This superb book is a marvellous return to form after two rather lack-lustre earlier efforts by this author. In the two previous titles DI Lynley only appeared in a peripheral role, whereas he actually takes centre stage in this new book, although he doesn't put in an appearance until page 101.

The book has 608 pages, but is printed in a very small font to condense the size of the book. I did a very rough quick calculation and if she had written the book in a normal print size. This would have equated to a book length of about 900 pages. So if you buy this book to read on holiday it could take you longer than you thought, but it's 900 pages of quality writing for the price of 608.

Read another review of THIS BODY OF DEATH.

Terry Halligan, England
May 2010

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 29/05/2011 13:53