I have read a fair amount of psychological thrillers especially of the British crime genre which leads me somehow to have a fair judgment on what is a ‘good’ or the ‘not-so-good’ of the genre. Elizabeth George is an American who is fond of writing Classic British thrillers, with that is an instant challenge for the author to convince readers specially the British the she is capable of writing a novel with a foreign subject.
Thomas Lynley together with her redoubtable detective, Barbara Havers has been sent to solve a murder that shocked a peaceful countryside. For the unlovable Roberta Teys has been found an axe in her lap, seated in an upturned bucket beside her father’s headless corpse. Her first and last words were “I did it. And I’m not sorry.”
What I like about the novel is its supposed questions on whether Roberta kills her father; on whether the novel is a whodunit or a whydunit. I’ve read somewhere that one of George’s favorite authors is John Irving which is also my favorite writer. And with that information, makes me notice Irving’s writing in George’s prose. George cut’s a scene abruptly in a good manner and then retells what has happened later on. I’ve also read a quote from Irving in a different manner but that one doesn’t make me judge the author’s ability, in fact, before I finish this one, Elizabeth George won me over.
The novel is somewhat long, but one can understand why the length for the author has a flair for characterization and detail; descriptions that is really necessary for a superb ‘English’ mystery. She affects the reader with her three-dimensional character that’ll make you watch for them not just for the solving of the crime.
I have this rule in rating a novel. I categorize them as good, better and best and when I chose a rating, it still undergoes another category.
Good – (Good, Better, Best)
Better – (Good, Better, Best)
Best – (Good, Better, Best)
And A Great Deliverance, I categorize as ‘Best better’. Why not ‘Best best’? There are parts that I do feel a ‘trashy scene’ is present. The mouse in the head reminds me of an old paperback cover of a horror novel. I guess that the headless corpse is enough violence for the whole novel –and that alone makes the whole crime creepy—, need not to put ‘yucky’ parts. All in all, it is a superb mystery, specially coming from an American author. The success of the novel fairly credits the author’s talents for convincing and writing a great ‘English’ mystery.
The novel won the Anthony Award and the Agatha Award for best first novel in 1988.
Opening Sentence: It was solecism of the very worst kind.
Ending Sentence: She ran up the slope into her mother’s arms, and they entered the house together.