Elizabeth George Burke

Hodder & Stoughton £9.99hbk

Reviewed by

John Escott

Elizabeth George takes the traditional mystery story to another level. Her plots are wonderfully labyrinthine and her well defined characters are examined with understanding and in great depth. Even so, I found her last novel, A Traitor to Memory, overlong. Not so this one. Its satisfyingly complex plot held me throughout its 566 pages (in proof copy).

This is not an Inspector Lynley/Sergeant Havers novel, although Lynley makes a couple of brief appearances. The investigators into the murder of the wealthy Guy Brouard, a generous Guernsey benefactor who has choked to death after his early swim, are forensic scientist Simon St James and his photographer wife Deborah.

Accused of murdering Brouard is a young American woman with the unlikely name of China River. China was once a close friend of Deborah St James, at a time when Deborah needed a friend badly. So when China`s brother, Cherokee (!), comes to London asking for help, Deborah persuades her husband to go with her to Guernsey to see what they can do. Here they uncover a mystery which has its roots in the inhumanities and betrayals of World War Two.

There are many who would seem to have motive for killing Brouard. An abandoned lover, a ne`er-do-well son, the irate father of a seduced daughter, the disappointed architect of a museum dedicated to the five-year German Occupation of Guernsey which was to be financed by Brouard. The architect`s plans seem to have been dumped, leaving his business on the verge collapse. But the person in prison accused of the crime is China River. Deborah cannot believe her friend could be responsible for anyone`s death and sets out, with her husband, to prove it.

This book is certain to feature in the bestseller lists, and deservedly so. Elizabeth George is currently one of our finest crime writers.