Elizabeth George expands her horizons

Posted Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
Just One Evil Act by Elizabeth George Dutton, $29.95 Audiobook: Penguin Audio, $39.95; read by audiobook veteran Davina Porter.

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Bestselling author Elizabeth George has done it again.

Her dynamic duo of crime fighters, British Inspector Thomas Lynley and Detective Sgt. Barbara Havers, is back at it in George’s newest crime drama, Just One Evil Act. And the suspense is superb.

For the first time, George leaves London for Tuscany, where she finally puts beloved character Havers center stage. Par for the course, Havers manages to get involved in a spot of trouble. And this time, she’s thrust into a situation that forces her to test her feelings, loyalties and professional limits. Readers will see this fan favorite in a whole new light, when they aren’t ready to throttle her.

Havers’ neighbor and close friend, Taymullah Azhar, is desperate when his daughter, Hadiyyah, disappears with her mother. Azhar and Angelina Upman were never married, and his name isn’t even on Hadiyyah’s birth certificate. So with no legal claim, he enlists Havers to help him find her and get her back.

Together, they hire private detective Dwayne Doughty, but he leaves Azhar with little hope. Just as this abandoned father is beginning to accept his loss, Angelina shows up and hits him with a double whammy. Hadiyyah has been kidnapped from an Italian mercato, and she’s convinced Azhar took her.

What follows is a mystery within a mystery, involving two cases that need solving, and everyone is guilty of something. The kidnapping investigation is full steam ahead in Italy, and Havers cannot find a way to get herself “officially” involved. But that doesn’t stop her from taking risks to keep “helping.”

When the Italian police finally want Scotland Yard in on the case, it’s Lynley who gets the call. Havers accepts that if she can’t be in the thick of things, at least her partner can be. But the pair soon discovers that the players in this drama harbor secrets that could affect the case in shocking ways.

Their bond is tested. They are at odds as to how to work together, protect each other and solve the mystery, especially when Havers chooses to dance on the edge of the law to protect Azhar and Hadiyyah. Will Lynley walk that line, too, to safeguard Havers?

The Italian job is headed by Chief Inspector Salvatore Lo Bianco, who doesn’t speak English but can read a face like a book. Lynley and Lo Bianco are a perfect pairing. They take on Angelina’s Italian boyfriend, Lorenzo Mura; a bleached-blond Italian thug named Michelangelo Di Massimo; and Italian Pubblico Ministero Piero Fanucci with like minds and the same dry wit.

George takes the reader through the beauty of Italy and speaks quite a bit of Italian along the way. Translating the language is sometimes frustrating, but it doesn’t hinder the story. Love, loss, desperation and passion are universal.

The risks are clear.

The characters on all sides of the crime are playing each other, with everyone thinking he or she has the upper hand. The half-truths and outright lies gush like the famous Italian fountains. They threaten, strong-arm and blackmail one another at every turn. The reader cannot trust anyone, because even the good guys sometimes bend the law.

Finally, Havers must follow her head … and her heart, something she’s not used to doing. Even new readers to the series can feel for her and will get caught up in her struggle. Logic goes out the window when you’re out to save a child. What would you do? How far is too far? George keeps you questioning until the very end.

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