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Careless in Red    by Elizabeth George order for
Careless in Red
by Elizabeth George
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

As Careless in Red begins, readers meet New Scotland Yard Detective Superintendent Thomas Lynley, so devastated by grief over the senseless tragedy that struck in With No One As Witness that he has set out from his ancestral home, without food or a change of clothing, to tramp for weeks around the coast of Cornwall - it was that or suicide. Of course, Lynley being Lynley, he comes across a corpse at the base of a cliff near a lone cottage, whose veterinarian owner, Daidre Trahair shows up soon afterwards.

An accident? Not so, says forensic evidence - the climbing equipment was sabotaged, making it a clear case of murder. The victim was young Santo Kerne, scion of an entrepeneurial family developing an old hotel into new activities-oriented resort, Adventures Unlimited. The lead investigator is Detective Inspector Bea Hannaford, another strong female character, whose family life is resolved in an engaging subplot. She insists on Lynley's remaining in the area and presses him to exploit the connection he has formed with Daidre to find out why she's lying to the authorities.

In addition to its colorful setting (of surfing and other outdoor activities in scenic Cornwall) the mystery is filled with interesting characters (with exotic names like Jago Reeth) and intriguing subplots based on difficult intergenerational relationships. There's Cadan Angarrack with his parrot, his dreams of gold medals, and his rebellion against his father's plans for his future. Cadan's sister Madlyn is an expert surfer and the ex-girlfriend of the deceased. Santo's parents, Ben and Dellen, have a troubled marriage, punctuated by her regular sexual encounters with all and sundry, baggage that has affected both Santo and his sister Kerra's emotional development. As the latter muses, their family history includes 'bats in the belfry and skeletons in the closet, people who were permanently estranged and people who were just permanently strange.'

As the official investigation focuses in on present conflicts, Lynley - ignoring Bea Hannaford's instructions - follows an elusive trail to the past. This creates conflicted loyalties for DS Barbara Havers who's been seconded to the investigation to keep an eye on Lynley - whose state of mind concerns both colleagues and superiors. Barbara rightly distrusts Thomas's emotional state but wrongly discounts his judgment - which leads him to surprising revelations and a clear identification of the killer, though not to the evidence needed to convict.

Elizabeth George's latest mystery - which leaves readers wondering how Lynley's relationship with Barbara will evolve and whether there's a new romantic interest down the road for him - proves that she's at the top of her game. Careless in Red is one of her very best yet in a series that has thoroughly hooked me and countless other fans.

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