First in a long series – written by American Elizabeth George, but takes place in England.
This crime novel is well planned, with a good and exciting plot. A Catholic priest finds one of his parishioners murdered, a middle-aged farmer who apparently is not good at keeping his female family members home. His nineteen-year-old daughter immediately confesses to the priest that she is the one who decapitated the father with an axe, whereupon she withdraws into herself and does not speak at all. A horrible and scary story with a strong touch of Old Testament religion.
This is also the reader´s first meeting with the mismatched partners Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers. Lynley, eighth earl of Asherton, rich and handsome nobleman with the right kind of education and RP background: “He had an unmistakable aristocratic face, a face which reminds one of a Greek sculpture.”
And for contrast, working class Havers, bogged down by her decrepit and demented parents. The two are put together in a modern My Fair Lady experiment, the stylish nobleman as the rolemodel and Barbara as poor Eliza Higgins who may, may not be able to learn to associate with proper people, clumsy, overweight and temperamental as she is.
So here begins the American author´s crush on the British nobility, this class which quite unconsciously behave with careless confidence in any situation. A continuation of the best Sherlock Holmes and Lord Peter Wimsey traditions in old England where class defines a person´s character, personality and even looks. [See Sherlock Holmes & Middle Class Women and Sherlock Holmes and Working Class Women]. Realistic in contemporary England? Not as far as I know. None the less I have quite enjoyed following this author through a dozen or so good and entertaining crime novels in which Barbara Havers has had plenty of time to prove she is nobody´s fool.
Elizabeth George, En fars begær (1988)
Denne debut er skrevet af en amerikaner, men handlingen i serien udspiller sig i England.
Krimien er veltilrettelagt, med et godt og spændende plot. En katolsk præst finder et af sine sognebørn myrdet, en midaldrende landmand, som tilsyneladende har lidt svært ved at holde sine kvindelige familiemedlemmer hjemme. Hans nittenårige datter tilstår straks overfor præsten, at det er hende, som har halshugget faderen med en økse, hvorefter hun trækker sig fuldstændigt ind i sig selv. En grusom og skræmmende historie med et stærkt islæt af gammel-testamentlig religion.
Dette er også det første møde med det ulige makkerpar Thomas Lynley og Barbara Havers. Lynley, 8. jarl af Asherton, rig og flot adelsmand med den rigtige uddannelse og BBC-accent i bagagen: ”Han havde et umiskendeligt aristokratisk ansigt, et ansigt der mindede om en græsk skulptur.”
Og som kontrast, Havers fra arbejderklassen, bebyrdet med et par affældige, forvirrede forældre. De to sættes sammen som en slags My Fair Lady-eksperiment, den stilige adelsmand som rollemodel, og Barbara som den stakkels Eliza Higgins som måske, måske ikke er i stand til at lære at begå sig blandt ordentlige folk, overvægtig, kikset og temperamentsfuld som hun er.
Og her begynder så den amerikanske forfatters sværmeri for den britiske adel, denne klasse som ganske ubevidst opfører sig skødesløst og selvsikkert i enhver situation. En videreførelse af bedste Sherlock Holmes og Lord Peter Wimsey-traditioner i gamle England, hvor klassetilhørsforhold definerer en persons karaktertræk, personlighed og sågar udseende. [Se evt Sherlock Holmes & middelklassekvinder og Sherlock Holmes & arbejderklassens kvinder]. Realistisk i nutidens England? Nej, ikke så vidt jeg ved. Ikke desto mindre har jeg nydt at følge forfatteren gennem en halv snes udmærkede og underholdende krimier, hvor Barbara Havers har vist sig slet ikke at være så ueffen endda.
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You know I keep meaning to read one of her books and haven't yet although I've heard they're really good. There's a couple of them that stare me in the face at the library each week and my hands itch to bring them home. lol.
I think you are right, Dorte, in what you write about the author's crush on British nobility. I've lived here for more years than I care to remember and have met a few of the rich and titled in my time, but none of them are quite like Lynley. For example, his good manners and courtesy are shared by many well-educated (either self-educated or otherwise) people who have quite humble origins.
I have very much enjoyed many of this author's books, though - partly because of the unintentional humour they provide (Deborah Crombie is similar), but partly because I think they do have emotional honesty and insight. One of the themes in the earlier books was very similar to something going on in my own life at the time, and I was moved and admiring of how well the author "got" that.
Dar, people say the quality of her work is slipping, but her first 10-12 books have been quite good crime novels with fine plots so as long as you don´t mind meeting Lord Peter Wimsey in them, I think you´ll enjoy them.
Maxine, my own personal experience (staying in Reading for some months + blogging) is that the British are generally pleasant and courteous people, and that some of them are extremely thoughtful and generous :)
And I don´t think I have ever come across anyone belonging to the upper class.
I loved the early Elizabeth George books. I don't know how realistic they are although I can imagine a real book-Lynley more easily than TV-Lynley. And I do love Havers. and Simon St James. I always think she does a great job of getting inside people's heads.
Bernadette, I have also enjoyed the series very much so far, but after having read several reviews of her new one, I can´t say I expect much from it. But I am going to give it a try.
Perhaps George should try writing a new series. She can write quite well, after all, and after 14 volumes or so it might be time for renewal.
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