Picks and Pans Review: For the Sake of Elena
George doesn't find much humor in murder. Or in life. Her literate, painstakingly plotted mysteries—A Suitable Vengeance, A Great Deliverance—are riddled with emotional despair and intellectual gloom.
Fortunately New Scotland Yard Inspector Thomas Lynley can still muster a chuckle or two, even though he's circling the first anniversary of his split from Lady Helen Clyde. To be near Lady Helen, who is visiting her sister in Cambridge, Lynley accepts an assignment there: to investigate the bludgeoning death of a beautiful student, the daughter of a history professor. Along for the ride, and providing her own sad, cynical asides, is Det. Inspector Barbara Havers—who has a different but equally lonely burden. "Her mother was 63 years old. Her health was excellent. It was only her mind that was dying."
Lynley and Havers will come closer to resolving their own crises as they probe the death of a girl who was both less and more than she seemed. Elena Weaver, born deaf yet reared to pass for a hearing child, had spent her final months as the project of her guilty father, who had abandoned her when she was 5. Disliked by her stepmother, she also had her share of campus enemies—a professor she charged with sexual harassment; an ambitious graduate student of her father's; a leader of the Deaf Students Union whom she dated, then shunned.
Revenge, spite, jealousy, greed: George exposes her characters' vulnerabilities as well as their basest drives. Conversations crackle with anger and need, every revelation a possible clue. The murder's solution, of course, is horrifying—why should it be less so than the deed?—as George goes to the head of her genre, with class. (Bantam, $20)