A Banquet of Consequences, (Inspector Lynley, #19), Elizabeth George, author; John Lee, narrator,
The author, Elizabeth George, has chosen a superb narrator for the 19th book in her Inspector Lynley crime novel series. I don’t think that John Lee has ever disappointed me. He plays the roles of males and females equally well and is able to portray the personality of each individual character with an appropriate tone of voice so that their attitudes, sex, personality, and mood shine through in each scene. The book is well written, making it an easy read. Humor is interjected often into the narrative along with the tension of the murder investigation, so that there will be a tendency to ooh and ahh as the story meanders along at a steady, even pace. Elizabeth George plants many red herrings into the tale, keeping the reader on the edge of the seat trying to guess the identity of the murderer.
The story revolves around a very dysfunctional Goldacre family. Caroline Goldacre’s first marriage to Francis Goldacre, a plastic surgeon, had been over for years. He remarried Sumalee, a much younger woman. Caroline is a very difficult woman and an overbearing parent. She is currently married to Alistair MacKerron who was a very decent stepfather to her two sons, Will and Charlie. Over the years, though, she has turned colder and more distant, growing more and more preoccupied with her sons, and so Alistair has also turned elsewhere for comfort. He has become involved with his long time capable assistant who really runs his chain of bakeries, Sharon Halsey. She keeps the shops stocked and the deliveries straight, managing everything and making the chain successful without complaint, so unlike Caroline who never fails to miss an opportunity to grumble. Caroline also seems to have a difficult time separating truth from fiction. She does not take well to criticism, and has an excessively high opinion of her own importance and self worth. Her background and past shaped, or perhaps, “misshaped her”, and she seems to have carried on that tradition with her own two boys who are both very troubled. Recently, her son Will committed suicide by jumping to his death, in front of his lover. Caroline blames her for his suicide.
Caroline worked for Clare Abbott, a very famous and popular author and feminist who was her salvation. Caroline had begun to eat herself into oblivion in an attempt to deal with her son’s unfortunate death. This job helped her refocus her attention to someone else. She started out as her housekeeper and worked her way up to being her personal assistant, taking charge of all of her affairs, keeping her schedule and appointments straight, and protecting her from fans. Soon, she became too impressed with herself and her position and her arrogance and bossiness began to grow annoying and more apparent.
Clare Abbott’s closest friend was Rory Statham. Rory was still reeling from the tragic murder of her partner Fiona Rhys, while on vacation in Italy, and she required her service dog, Arlo, to be with her at all times. Arlo, the dog, a Havanese, was my favorite character. Rory was not happy with Caroline’s presence or increased influence over her friend Clare.
Lily Foster is a tattoo artist who was the partner of Will Goldacre. His recent suicide has driven Lily over the edge, as well. She is obsessed and haunted by a need to punish Caroline whom she believed caused Will to jump to his death. So both Lily and Caroline blame each other for Will’s tragic jump. Lily stalks Caroline and has begun to look like a wraith, as she loses weight, dresses in black, and becomes increasingly covered with piercings and ink.
India Elliot is an acupuncturist who is married to Charlie Goldacre. His motto should be “doctor, heal thyself”. His marriage is currently on the rocks because of his inability to pull himself together or even get out of bed since the tragic death of his brother, Will. India finally gave up and moved out. Currently, she is involved with Nat Thompson to the consternation of Charlie and his mom.
When there is an unexpected death which turns out to be from unnatural causes, Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley of Scotland Yard becomes involved with the case to investigate the murder. He is a widower and is also involved in a love affair. His romantic interest is a very laid back Daidre Trahair, a veterinarian at the London Zoo.
Lynley’s partner is Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers who is not a favorite of Detective Superintendent Isabelle Aubrey, because of her unprofessional behavior and appearance. She wants to transfer her far away to Berwick-upon-Tweed, the northernmost town of England. Barbara is a loose cannon who often stretches and even disobeys the rules. She is also rude and unschooled socially. However, Lynley believes that she is a good detective, and he goes to bat for her with the Superintendent. Secretary Dorothea Harriman also decided to take her in hand and help her to dress and become romantically involved with someone which she believes will straighten her out.
At the heart of the novel is the murder investigation. Which of these characters is the murderer? All of them might have a motive. All of them might have the means to acquire the deadly poison that was used. The love lives and private lives of the characters are window trimming introducing such issues as mental illness, emotional disturbance, helicopter parenting, sexual abuse, neglect, infidelity, loyalty, secrets and lies. It does get confusing at times with all of the twists and turns. In the end, though, all of the loose ends are tied up with some surprising revelations. This would be a good book to take on vacation as it will take you away from whatever you are thinking about and drop you into the beautiful English countryside that is about to be shattered by the sudden eruption of chaos and murder. The conclusion was unexpected and surprising except for the resolution of the many romantic issues which seemed a bit transparent.