Roderick Hart's Reviews > Careless in Red

Careless in Red by Elizabeth  George
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Jun 02, 2009

really liked it

The cover of this book tells us that ‘Inspector Lynley Is Back’. Regular readers will know what this means though I didn’t know he’d gone away.

The title is unusually good, but I can’t say why without giving away too much of the plot. It refers to a femme fatale by the name of Dellen, who likes to wear red. The ‘careless’ goes straight to the heart of the matter.

As crime writing goes, this has a lot going for it. First of all, and though there is a death, it occurs before the action begins so there is no description of violence leading to death. In this it is a welcome relief to some of Val McDermid’s books or the ludicrous stories in the Midsomer Murders TV series. The interest lies not in gruesome detail but in character and in piecing together the past events which have led to the present death. The plot is so well constructed that when you finish this book you could read it again and find new significance in some of the exchanges, for example, those between Dellen and her husband Ben when they are questioned by Detective Inspector Bea Hannaford. This book is undoubtedly a good read, and any criticism is with that in mind.

For me, there were so many characters with unusual names I found it hard going at first. One of these, Cadan, goes everywhere with a parrot. If I assembled all the remarks this bird makes I doubt if anyone would find it credible. If I were editing this book I’d lose the parrot.
‘Pooh said, ‘Polly wants a shag. Polly wants a shag,’ displaying, not for the first time, the level of inapposition to which he was capable of sinking at a moment’s notice.’ (page 161, paperback edition)

This quote leads me to my next concern. The book could do with fewer words: ‘displaying, not for the first time, the level of inapposition to which he was capable of sinking at a moment’s notice.’

The author has a tendency to over-write. It reminds me of note-spinning but with words. Here’s another example: ‘It was, praise God or praise whomever one felt like praising when praise was called for, the last radiator.’ (page 160)

And another: ‘His golden retriever bounded up to him. Her exploration of the other dog’s pertinent orifices complete, Lily was ready for another throw of the tennis ball.’ (page 455)

To me this comes across as a pedantic tendency and there are too many instances of it.
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