ELIZABETH GEORGE – In the Presence of the Enemy. Thomas Lynley et al #8. Bantam, hardcover, 1996; paperback, 1997. TV movie: BBC/PBS, 2003.

   After I read the [most recent] of this series I got rid of all I had but the first three, and crossed George off my reading list. I had gotten tired of the unremitting angst that seemed to suffuse about two-thirds of the pages, which were too numerous. A friend said this [one] was more like the early ones I had liked considerably, though, so …

   The acknowledged but illegitimate child of a woman high in the Tory government is kidnapped, and both she and the child’s father, the editor of a muckraking left-wing tabloid, receive notes demanding that he acknowledge his first-born child on the front page of his paper. The woman, fearing political repercussions, is unwilling for either that to happen or the police to be notified; the man, though willing, abides by her decision and seeks help in finding the child. This help consists of Simon St. James, Scotland Yard Inspector Thomas Lynley’ s best friend, and Lady Helen Clyde, his fiancé. Then the story turns darker.

   I shouldn’t review this series where anyone new to it might read the review (and I won’t), because it wouldn’t be fair to them or George. Y’ see, her characters have just worn me out. There’s not as much browbeating and hair-tearing angst from them here as in some of the previous ones, but it doesn’t take much for me now, not with this bunch. I really don’t like them anymore. Too, George creates some of the most miserable, Rendell-ian characters imaginable, and I don’t like that. And her books are too damned long.

   What it amounts to is that she doesn’t do anything I enjoy any longer, and the fact that she’s without argument a more than competent prose stylist isn’t sufficient to change that. I will not read another of these.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #22, November 1995