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A Banquet of Consequences by Elizabeth George

March 1, 2016

Inspector Lynley investigates the London end of an ever more darkly disturbing case, with Barbara Havers and Winston Nkata looking behind the peaceful façade of country life to discover a twisted world of desire and deceit.

The suicide of William Goldacre is devastating to those left behind. But what was the cause of his tragedy and how far might the consequences reach? Is there a link between the young man’s leap from a Dorset cliff and a horrific poisoning in Cambridge?

Following various career-threatening misdemeanours, Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers is desperate to redeem herself. So when a past encounter with bestselling feminist writer Clare Abbott and her pushy personal assistant Caroline Goldacre gives her a connection to the Cambridge murder, Barbara begs DI Thomas Lynley to let her pursue the crime.

I was excited to read the new Inspector Thomas Lynley/D.S.Barbara Havers novel as it had been on my reading list since publication last October.

Always a meaty read, Elizabeth George populates her books with well-rounded, fully thought out characters and A Banquet of Consequences is no different. Very well plotted, this novel is a true tragedy and not until the final pages is there clarity about who perpetrated the poisoning.

In this, the 19th book in the series, it is Barbara Havers who is at the forefront of solving the crime. Desperate to free herself from the tight restrictions that imposed upon her by Superintendent Isabelle Avery as a result of misdemeanours in the last book, she feels it necessary to prove herself.

So it is Barbara, who, through a chance encounter with the victim and her literary agent, sets out to determine that a murder has been committed and leads the action throughout the book. Lynley himself is pretty much confined to doing a few London interviews and progressing his somewhat slow, but emotionally complex, relationship with Daidre, the vet who works at London Zoo.

This leaves Barbara to develop slightly more as a character and to form better relationships with her colleague D.S. Winston Nkata. I am less persuaded by the attempts of Dorothea Harriman, Ardery’s secretary to groom Barbara into her version of a well-dressed woman and I fervently hope that doesn’t take.

The plot is well constructed and tells a pretty horrible tale of poisoning, suicide and very destructive family and personal relationships. The Goldacre family harbour truly awful secrets and are as a result about as dysfunctional as they could be.
There are quite a few contrivances in the book, not least of them the series of coincidences that leads Barbara to know the victim, and I had to suspend disbelief when Havers and Nkata actually stayed in the victim’s house and drove her car during their investigation.

There is also an annoying tic deployed by George where she truncates the word can to c’n, presumably to denote less poised speech – but it is sprinkled across characters throughout the book and rings false.

That said, the tale itself is a good one and I did not know who had committed the crime until the denouement, so on that level it works.

A solid work, but not one that outshines her previous novels in the series.

A Banquet of Consequences was published by Hodder & Stoughton on 27 Oct. 2015

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