lørdag den 13. juni 2009

Elizabeth George, Well-Schooled in Murder (1990)

This novel is the third in the series about Inspector Lynley and Barbara Havers. See my review of George´s debut.

In the first chapter of this crime novel, the working-class couple Kevin and Patsy Whateley are thrown into any parent´s nightmare: their thirteen-year-old son Matthew has disappeared from his posh boarding school.

If you have seen the quotation of this week´s bait in the box, plus the ones from yesterday, Cold Feet, you will have realized by now that the delicate and pretty boy does not return alive. At first, the school tries to handle the case discreetly. Matthew´s teacher and housemaster John Corntel appeals to his old Eton friend, Thomas Lynley, who is also a Scotland Yard inspector. The old school tie oblige! Conveniently for the school, Matthew´s body is found in another police district, making it natural for Scotland Yard to intervene.

Elizabeth George has created a fine, exciting plot, and raised some interesting themes about social classes. She is not afraid of showing the negative sides of the boarding school tradition either. And of course Lynley and Havers solve the unpleasant case between them. Havers is bright, Lynley is invariably brighter.

It has never been quite clear to me, however, why she chose her noble protagonist in the first place. What may seem acceptable, perhaps even charming, in Dorothy Sayers´ Lord Peter Wimsey stories, does not necessarily work in the 1990s.

Do her American readers call for quaint, British nobility?
Or is George herself just hopelessly romantic, like Sayers who invented the perfect British gentleman, fell in love with him and invaded his bachelor bliss in the shape of Harriet Vane?

Elizabeth George, Skolet til mord (1991)
Denne krimi er den tredje i serien om kriminalkommissær Lynley og Barbara Havers. Se min anmeldelse af den første i serien.

I første kapitel bliver arbejderklasseparret Kevin og Patsy Whateley kastet ud i ethert forældrepars mareridt: deres trettenårige søn Matthew er forsvundet fra sin fornemme kostskole.

Hvis du har fulgt med i ugens gæt en bog, samt citaterne fra denne krimi i går, Kolde Fødder, så ved du allerede, at den spinkle og smukke dreng ikke vender levende tilbage. Skolen forsøger i første omgang at klare sagen så diskret som muligt. Matthews lærer og husforstander John Corntel appellerer til sin gamle Eton-skolekammerat Thomas Lynley, som meget praktisk arbejder for Scotland Yard. Den gamle skoleuniform forpligter! Meget bekvemt for skolen bliver Matthews lig fundet i et andet politidistrikt, hvad der gør det naturligt for yarden at overtage sagen.

Elizabeth George har opbygget et godt og spændende plot, og taget et interessant tema op om forholdet mellem de sociale klasser i Storbritannien. Hun er heller ikke bange for at udstille de negative sider ved middelklassens kostskoletraditioner. Og selvfølgelig løser Lynley og Havers den grusomme sag til sidst. Havers er god, Lynley altid lidt bedre.

Men jeg har aldrig helt forstået, hvorfor forfatteren valgte sin adelige helt i første omgang. Det der kunne virke acceptabelt, måske endda charmerende, i Dorothy Sayers berømte Lord Peter Wimsey-serie, virker ikke nødvendigvis troværdigt i 1990erne.

Efterspørger hendes amerikanske læsere maleriske, britiske adelige? Eller er Elizabeth George uforbederlig romantiker, som Sayers der opfandt den perfekte gentleman, forelskede sig i ham, og invaderede hans lykkelige ungkarletilværelse i Harriet Vanes skikkelse?

10 kommentarer:

Louise sagde ...

I read all George's first books with pleasure and found Well Schooled in Murder to be one of the best and most scary. Later I became extremely tired of her style and main characters. Tired of the on-going clash between the classes (Havers-working class and Lynley-aristocratic). That sub-plot stopped working for me many books ago.

The George's books became more and more "literary". Whats with that??? I mean, I adore "literary" books, but make up your mind - you wanna write a thriller or what, Elizabeth George? I hope you know what I mean. I am not implying, that thrillers cannot be literary, but George just became too much (and her books too long and boring). I haven't read the her last 4-5 Havers/Lynley novels.

Dorte H sagde ...

Louise, I agree that her first many plots were great, and that she was far more focused on creating a good crime novel then. I wouldn´t call her later works literary, however. In my opinion they just grow more rambling and focus too much on the troubled relationships among her four main characters. If she wants to write psychologic thrillers instead, she should come up with a fresh supply of characters - and not too many earls, please.

Louise sagde ...

That is actually what I mean by "literary". Her books became more and more focused on the interaction and dynamics between her "cast" and their sorry lives, and frankly, I couldn't care less about their personal lives when there is a crime to solve! Not that there cannot be nothing about the main characters lives, which may give the readers inklings of why they act like they do etc., but George has overdone it, and yes, too many earls and sirs and ladies. Definitely. Sounds like I am annoyed with E. George and well, maybe I am ;-)

seana graham sagde ...

I have read a few of these, though not the one under review here, and though I liked them, I never got all that caught up with them, though I know many people who have. I think it's a problem for this kind of series, frankly, or at least a pitfall. People, including perhaps the author do get interested in the characters secondary lives, and want to know more. It can be quite satisfying to those who've been sucked in, but you're right--it detracts from the crime aspect of the novel.

I have to say that, because I am not a purist about Linley, I have enjoyed watching the PBS mystery series--I like the actors who have been cast as Linley and Havers very much. But as Linley does not fit the physical description in the book, a lot of real fans found it a hurdle.

Bernadette sagde ...

I think perhaps it is the American fascination with the British class system that made her make Lynley a Lord. And in some ways it is interesting. I worked for a bloke in England who ran a pub and he was, it turns out, of noble birth although the family had lost a lot of its clout and some of its money but, eventually, he would have had to become Lord of the Manor when his father died. I guess it is interesting to see that kind of thing play out in the modern setting.

However, I agree with you both about the length and dullness of George's later books. I've just finished CARELESS IN RED which is the last. And the lengthiest and the dullest.

Søren sagde ...

I haven't read the books, but I love the tv series with Lynley and Havers.

Dorte H sagde ...

Louise, I think many people have enjoyed her a lot but grown tired of her main characters and all their problems.

Seanag, I have also enjoyed the TV version, and while viewers are sometimes annoyed because the TV actors are not close enough, it may be an advantage for this series that some of the noble varnish has been removed on the screen.

Dorte H sagde ...

Bernadette, you are probably right. And I don´t mind Lynley being an earl - I mind that he is always too good to be true: more handsome, clever, conscientious etc than anyone else.

Søren, just for once one might say the TV series is better in some respects. Not quite so much noblesse oblige.

Belle Wong sagde ...

I think I'm in the minority here - I find George's characterizations quite compelling. What I enjoy about her books is that she goes just as far in terms of the characterization of her non-series characters as she does with her main characters (but I like the complexity of her plots the most).

I did eventually find Lynley's relationship with Lady Helen a bit tiring, but With No One As Witness shocked me. I skipped the next book, couldn't bear to read it, and picked things up with Careless in Red.

Dorte H sagde ...

Belle, I was not nearly as critical when I read them the first time. I really enjoyed her first many novels (though I have always thought it odd that she had to use an upper-class detective). But I re-read this one, and I know that my opinion is coloured by my having grown tired of later novels where Lynley´s private problems (including Simon & Deborah´s pregnancy problems) take up too much space in my opinion.