Careless in Red

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By Elizabeth George; reviewed by Jeannette Hartman

Devastated by the murder of his wife Helen and their unborn son, Detective Inspector (DI) Thomas Lynley has resigned from New Scotland Yard and escaped to his home in Cornwall and the solitude of walking the South West Path.

For the past 43 days, he’s walked with little care for his well-being. He carries no identification, no spare clothing, little equipment or supplies. As he nears Polcare Cove, he sees a flash of red on the cloud-dulled grey slate stones at the base of the cliffs.

It’s the body of Santo Kerne. He’d fatally fallen as he climbed down the face of the cliff to the beach. But when the forensic team investigates, it becomes clear his death was no accident: his equipment had been tampered with.

Whether he wants to be or not, Lynley is soon involved in the investigation into Santo’s death. Detective Inspector Bea Hannaford of the local Cornwall police force is in charge of the understaffed investigation. New Scotland Yard sends Linley’s former assistant, Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers, to assist and to keep an eye on him.

Santo, 18, was athletic, charismatic and notoriously randy. He’d just broken up with Madlyn Angarrack, a young woman whom he had gotten pregnant. He was simultaneously having a relationship with an older woman with her own reputation for promiscuity.

There are plenty of people with motivation to kill Santo. Madlyn was known for having a vicious temper. She, her father and her brother all had motive. Any of Santo’s many lovers — or their lovers — might have wanted him dead. The Kernes were in the process of opening an outdoor adventure business, offering instruction, guided experiences, a hotel and restaurant. It might have been perceived as competition for the area surfing shops.

The owner of a vacation cottage, Dairdre Trahir, a large animal vet with the Bristol Zoo, comes under Hannaford’s suspicious eyes when her story and background don’t hold up to scrutiny. Lynley had broken into her cottage after he found the body in search of a phone. She returned home while he was searching and drove them to see the body and to call for the police.

Looming over the action in this book are themes about about fatherhood, about letting children go free to make their own life decisions and about living with loss.

This, the 15th book of Elizabeth George’s Inspector Thomas Lynley series, is a classic George mystery: well-written with interesting and complex characters; richly detailed and long.

It follows WITH NO ONE AS WITNESS, in which Lynley’s wife Helen and their unborn child are murdered by 12-year-old Joel Campbell on the street outside their front door, and WHAT CAME BEFORE HE SHOT HER, which follows the origins of Campbell and what led up to his crime.

I’ve been a long-time lover of Elizabeth George’s mysteries. Her characters — the aristocratic Lynley and Helen and the gruff, gauche Barbara Havers — and her many layered plots are engrossing.

I took a break from this series when Helen was murdered. It’s difficult to continue reading when the story arc deals such a heavy blow to such a wonderful character as Lynley.

This is a return to the Lynley mysteries before Helen became such a big part of his life. But it’s hard not to feel that they are poorer for her loss.

The Author: Elizabeth George (1949 – )

Susan Elizabeth George was born in Warren, OH, and grew up in San Francisco. She currently lives in Seattle.

Her first published novel was A GREAT DELIVERANCE (1988), which introduces Detective Inspector (DI) Thomas Lynley, his partner Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers; Helen Clyde, his girlfriend and later wife; and Simon St. James, a former school friend of Lynley’s and his wife, Deborah.

Lynley is the Earl of Asherton in private life, educated at Eton and Oxford. The latest book in the series, SOMETHING TO HIDE, came out Jan. 11, 2022.

There are currently 21 books in the Lynley series. She has also written The Edge of Nowhere series, three short story collection and two nonfiction books, WRITE AWAY and MASTERING THE PROCESS: FROM IDEA TO NOVEL.




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