Thursday, November 21, 2013

A matter of motivation

BELIEVING THE LIE By: Elizabeth George ISBN: 0525952586, Recorded from:, New York : Dutton, 2012 I have always found that this author and Ruth Rendell have very similar styles, though, of course, they also each have their own distinctive voices. But, in my mental reading shorthand, this is a Rendellesque novel, so I expected, and got, several things. All of the elements of a good mystery are most certainly there; there is the crime, (or … is there?), there are the investigators and the suspects (who keep popping their heads up for inclusion at unlikely times and there is the evidence, both circumstantial and physical. However, George, like Rendell is as interested in human motivations and relationship dynamics as she is in what was don’t, to whom and by who. So, in a story which is as much character driven as plot driven, everyone, including the investigators, come under Ms. George’s microscope. Each person in the story has something to contribute, and something to hide, and in digging around for those hidden things, some of which become crucial, the investigators open all sorts of Pandora’s boxes, some of which belong, not to the suspects, but to the investigators. This is not a fast paced action filled read. Instead, it is a leisurely stroll through the hearts, minds and motivations of several people, and a map of how each person connects and interacts with, each other in what is, to put it mildly, a dysfunctional family. When the dust finally settles, not only do we see each person reflected in a very honest and unflattering mirror, but each person knows far more about themselves. Sometimes this is a positive thing, leading, it would seem to increased wisdom, and sometimes, they are forced to confront their own venality, greed and/or emotional neediness, and no, they aren’t pleased; but I, the reader was. There is the crux of the matter, and the central question. “was a specific death by drowning an accident, or was it murder? Everything else spins off that question, and as the investigators become familiar with each family member, they realize that each had valid motives to hate, if not to murder, the victim, and that, just beneath the wealthy, civilized vaneer that this family presents to the world, there is a whole graveyard of skeletons, some of which are extremely destructive, and all of which, in the end are retrieved and examined. But investigators are people, too …and no investigator can entirely set aside his/her humanity when on the job. In this case, some very hot buttons get pushed about as hard as is possible, and by the end, some of the investigators aren’t sure whether they have done more harm than good, and neither are we. As in any examination of any group of people, we find that they are neither all “good” or all “evil” (altough 2 of them come close to that). As in life, each person is some of both, drivin by their needs and desires, and usually focused on their own imperatives, and that applies to suspects and investigators alike. Ms. George is masterful in handling this, never over or under stating her points, so that, while the portraits she draws are entirely accurate and believable, they are never characatures or cartoons. This is not, as some books are, a gathering of the nasty and malicious, however. There are characters with whom we can unabashedly and wholeheartedly sympathize, not as the lesser of several evils, but as good people in situations that force them to examine themselves and others, and make sometimes difficult choices that will effect themselves and others, and they do …and they do it right, in my opinion. This author’s writing is a joy to read, because it is always meticulous, sometimes evocatively beautiful, and, when appropriate emotionally devastating. She always takes her time, and never glosses over details. For that reason, her characters are well rounded and fully developed, her scenes are lovingly and richly set, and her landscapes are profoundly alive. This book is set in the lake district of England, which can appear lovely and benign, and turn quickly into something as erie and lethal as the best Romantic Gothic novel setting with its deadly, shifting sands and tidal bores. All in all, this book is a reading feast, on all levels.

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