Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Great Yorkshire Mystery

George, Elizabeth. A Great Deliverance. Chatter: Hodham, 2007 (1989).

George's novel, set partly in London and partly in a tiny Yorkshire village whose families and secrets are both complicated and intriguing, is at first glance an experiment in character diversity. Inspector Lynley, whom this book 'introduces,' according to the tag line on the title page, is an upper-class charmer who works as hard as he plays. Sergeant Barbara Havers, with whom he is partnered for the Yorkshire case central to the plot of George's novel, is a working-class girl who resents Lynley, his skill with women, and the elite culture in which the inspector was bred. The families in Yorkshire are a simple, sometimes superstitious, occasionally religious, and often secretive bunch, behind whose closed doors are practiced vices and abuses, sexual perversions, and devout faith--sometimes all at once. George's characters are rich and complicated, if occasionally slightly caricatured, and the society she portrays, which extends beyond the bounds of her northern village, into neighbouring cities, and as far afield as London, is an engaging one.

I enjoyed this book, and the careful manner in which past history and motives were incorporated into George's more modern narrative and introduction of Inspector Lynley, but the solution to the crime is far darker than the crime itself, and readers of delicate taste may wish to give this fine novel a pass.

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