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Just One Evil Act: A Lynley Novel    by Elizabeth George order for
Just One Evil Act
by Elizabeth George
Order:  USA  Can
Dutton, 2014 (2013)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In past episodes, DS Barbara Havers has developed a close friendship (and perhaps a desire for more on her part) with her neighbor, science professor Taymullah Azhar and his small daughter Hadiyyah (whose life she saved in Deception on His Mind). Barbara is working class, overweight, unattractive, sloppy in dress, and a pit bull on the job, but has a strong basic integrity. She is often her own worst enemy and no more so than in Just One Evil Act (which, be warned, is quite a tome).

As the episode opens, Hadiyyah's mother Angelina Upman has taken her to Italy. Azhar is devastated but has no legal recourse - he and Angelina never married and his name is not on the birth certificate. Trying to help him, Barbara takes him to PI Dwayne Doughty, who does some digging, but has no success. When Hadiyyah is kidnapped from Tuscany (where her mother had taken her to live with her new lover, Lorenzo Mura), Angelina shows up to accuse Azhar. But he was attending a conference in Berlin at the time.

Barbara is desperate to help but Superintendent Isabelle Ardery, who has been on a mission to improve DS Havers' appearance since she became her superior, has no intention of allowing her to do so. In fact she punishes Barbara for her latest fashion transgression by assigning her to work under misogynist John Stewart. But ultimately Isabelle agrees to send Lynley to Italy as a liaison officer. He goes reluctantly and works there with Chief Inspector Salvatore Lo Bianco, a charming addition to the series.

Fans might remember that Detective Superintendent Thomas Lynley, while devastated by grief over his wife Helen's senseless death in With No One As Witness, met veterinarian Daidre Trahair/aka roller derby Kickarse Electra in Careless in Red. As their relationship has been developing, Lynley is not happy to be out of the country. As he and Salvatore follow leads, readers learn that Hadiyyah has been placed in the care of an unbalanced woman - how will she fare?

The plot is pretty complex, twisting and turning all over the Tuscan countryside. And Barbara wends her way there too, going completely off the reservation after digging herself deeper and deeper in trouble with Isabelle. Her career is in a shambles but Barbara sticks with her blind loyalty to, and belief in her friends, ignoring all evidence to the contrary, including suspicion of murder. Can Lynley save her? And at least the author does reward Barbara with a growing friendship with Salvatore.

Barbara has been steadily intruding on Lynley's place in the spotlight as this series developed and Just One Evil Act is her story much more than Lynley's. Since she has become my favorite series character, this made me appreciate the book even more, but those who expected mainly Lynley's exploits might be disappointed. Though I found the plot rather drawn out, I thoroughly enjoyed Just One Evil Act.

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